By Jonathan Kaupanger
Imagine what it’s like to see your home flooded in a way that almost seems biblical. If you are one of the lucky ones to make it to a relief center, what do you do then? AmVets is on the ground in Houston and working with other VSO’s making sure there’s a veteran representative at every relief center in order to provide support or just answers to questions for displaced veterans.
According to Joseph R. Chenelly, National Executive Director for AmVets, coordinating with other VSO’s means they can cover more area. He said that having someone at a relief center who can speak to vets and help get them support was very important.
But that’s not all AmVets is doing right now. They have opened their posts as shelters in Livingston, Texas and Springfield, Louisiana. Members are volunteering at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston as well. “There are over 700 VA staff who are living at the hospital right now,” according to Chenelly. “They’ve put their personal life on the back burner and we are trying to help provide support. Logistical support and moral support. Volunteers are taking things to a new level.”
One very useful service they are providing for staff at the VA hospital is helping them communicate with their families. These dedicated workers have been working and living at the hospital without a break since Friday, but are finally able to communicate with their loved ones.
Members helping with rescue operations as well. Chenelly said they are working with the National Guard to move around the city, but members are making their way in on their own as well. “We had a member who was on his way in and saw another vet who was swimming. It turned out to be an Army Ranger who had a ruptured appendix,” he said.
A story like that, being able to save a fellow veteran’s life, might give more people the idea to head south to help, but Chenelly cautions people on doing that. “Don’t just jump into your truck or car and drive down there today. Make sure you have a plan, make sure you’ve coordinated with someone who’s on the ground down there. One of our bigger challenges for those who want to go down there is they don’t have a place to stay when they get there.”
Chenelly added, “One of the last things you want to do is go down and become a burden on the other volunteers who are there. Have a place to stay, and way to get around.”
If you would like to help AmVets with their support mission in the Gulf area, you can contact AmVets Department of Texas at (214) 309-1980 or go to their website at amvetsoftexas.com. If you would like to do something for veterans in Louisiana, you can call Gordon at (426) 506-2950.