Bringing hope from Suffolk

Published 9:26 pm Friday, September 29, 2017

The situation on the ground in the portions of the Caribbean that were ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria just continues to get worse, if that’s even imaginable.

As the remnants of Maria churned the waters of the North Atlantic this week, images from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands began to find their way back to the world. The storm had done so much damage that nearly all power and communication had been cut from those islands, causing a lag between the initial devastation and the assessment of damages.

But the images are now coming in, along with the reports of Puerto Rico beginning to run out of food, water, gasoline and other necessities, and many Americans are horrified at the conditions left behind. In Puerto Rico, to give just one example of the massive restoration effort that lies ahead, nearly 100 percent of the power grid was destroyed, and officials are warning of a grim period of months that the population will be without power.

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It has been said that the only organization with the resources to help in the face of such utter devastation is the U.S. Army, and the nation’s Army National Guard — including about 55 soldiers from the Suffolk unit of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team — is on the way.

Soldiers from Suffolk were among more than 350 National Guardsmen deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands this week in response to the devastation there. They will distribute food, water and other supplies, they will help clean up debris and they will provide security on the islands.

The soldiers are expected to be on their mission for 30 to 60 days, and they had to prepare for the worst before heading out from Blackstone.

Basic needs like food and water had to be packed, as well as computers, maps, overlay material, tables, chairs, generators and tents to conduct mission command. They also had to prepare vehicles and equipment for the support mission as well as taking repair parts and other maintenance items.

As they arrive in the Virgin Islands, we suspect the most important thing they will bring is hope for those whose lives were turned upside down during the storms.