As communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico sustained damage during last year’s hurricane season, VFW Posts rallied to offer support

As communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico sustained damage during last year’s hurricane season, VFW Posts rallied to offer support

Hurricane Harvey caused the windows of VFW Post 3904 in Rockport, Texas, to blow in. Air pressure forced the roof off the building, and it landed in three neighboring yards. Part of the front wall also fell in.

But days later, Post members held a meeting in the parking lot, amid the destruction.

“It was a complete act of defiance and unity,” said Post Commander Jimmy McCombs. “It was our way of saying Harvey can kiss our — you know.”

Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall Aug. 25, was the first major hurricane to hit the Texas coast since Celia in 1970, according to the National Weather Service.

McCombs, who served three tours (1983, 1992 and 1996) in the Persian Gulf and during Operation Desert Storm with the Navy, said as soon as word spread about the damage to Post 3904, he started receiving calls. Messages arrived from as far as Boston, Mass., and Tacoma, Wash., along with various Texas Posts. As of September, the Post had received about $4,500, according to McCombs.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jansen Schamp reassured civilians on Aug. 31, 2017, after a rescue at Pine Forest Elementary School in Vidor, Texas. U.S. Fleet Forces Command personnel rescued seven adults, seven children and four dogs at the school, which had been serving as a shelter until flood waters from Hurricane Harvey reached its grounds. As the Post awaits word from the insurance company to determine how to proceed, McCombs said, the American GI Forum in Rockport is allowing the Post to meet at its building.

‘There’s Not Even a Leaf on a Tree’

Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, swept through Puerto Rico Sept. 20, leaving at least 18 dead and the majority of the island without power, according to The Weather Channel.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, life member of VFW Post 8800 in Canyon Lake, Texas, and commander of U.S. Army North, is the Department of Defense’s liaison in Puerto Rico. He arrived on the island Sept. 28 and said the damage “was absolutely catastrophic.”

“It was far worse than anything I’d ever seen,” Buchanan said.

Maria, according to Buchanan, is the “10th most-powerful storm ever recorded,” including those that did not hit land. Maria earned its place in the top 10 alongside hurricanes Katrina and Rita, The Weather Channel reported.

The island also sustained “tremendous wind damage,” according to Buchanan.

“For much of the island, there’s not even a leaf on a tree,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said that after Maria hit the island, DoD realized its requirements in support of FEMA and the local governor would be “far larger than we had in Irma.” He oversees the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps teams totaling about 17,000 federal responders, the majority from the DoD.

Given the extent of the damage, Buchanan said, parts of Puerto Rico “have rebounded fairly quickly.” Major roads, he added, have been cleared, and minor roads “up in the mountains” were in the process of being cleared in October. The number of military aid flights had diminished, too, according to Buchanan.

The number of island inhabitants in October with power, according to Buchanan, was “hovering around 21 percent.” It was around 2 percent when Buchanan arrived in late September.

“It’s still way below what anybody would be satisfied with,” Buchanan said.

About 60 percent of the island had access to water, as of October, through its normal system rather than “delivery of clean water,” according to Buchanan.

The people of Puerto Rico’s “sense of community,” according to Buchanan, has shone through in the hurricane’s aftermath and will “help them get back on their feet.”

“The one thing that has amazed me is the sense of community and the power of families and the fact that people seem to be bending over to help each other,” Buchanan said.

To donate to VFW disaster relief efforts, text “NEEDS” to 91999 to make a donation, or mail checks earmarked “Emergency Relief” to: VFW Quartermaster General, 406 W. 34th Street, Kansas City, MO 64111.

This excerpt is from the article featured in the January 2018 issue of VFW magazine and was written by Kari Williams, associate editor, VFW magazine. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Lindahl.

Veterans legislation introducted last week

House Bill No. 7197

By Casey, Phillips, Azzinaro, Corvese, McLaughlin

ENTITLED, an act relating to taxation - property subject to taxation-veterans' exemptions (Gives cities and towns the option of entirely exempting the homestead of a disabled veteran or their surviving spouse from taxation.) {LC3540/1} 01/18/2018 Introduced, referred to House Municipal Government

House Bill No. 7204

By Vella-Wilkinson, Nardolillo, Jacquard, Shekarchi, Casimiro

ENTITLED, an act relating to military affairs and defense -- veterans' benefits (Permits veterans' benefits for members discharged based on sexual orientation.) {LC3434/1}

01/18/2018 Introduced, referred to House Veterans Affairs

House Bill No. 7215

By Knight, McEntee, Craven, Ranglin-Vassell, Tanzi

ENTITLED, an act relating to taxation (Defines "disabled," persons receiving veterans' affairs disability benefits paid by the federal government for purposes of property tax relief and be retroactive to January 1, 2017.) {LC3529/1} 01/18/2018 Introduced, referred to House Finance

Senate Bill No. 2067

By Felag, DiPalma, Seveney, Ciccone, Sosnowski

ENTITLED, an act relating to taxation - personal income tax (Allows $15,000 modification of retirement income in "pensions" and "annuities" line of federal tax return.) {LC3427/1} 01/18/2018 Introduced, referred to Senate Finance

Senate Bill No. 2105

By DiPalma, Seveney, Felag, Euer

ENTITLED, an act relating to military affairs and defense (Requires the veterans' cemetery to bear the cost of funeral processions originating from Aquidneck Island crossing the Newport Bridge at the rate per vehicle in the funeral procession.) {LC3211/1} 01/18/2018 Introduced, referred to Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs

Senate Bill No. 2106

By Felag, Seveney, Coyne, Raptakis, Algiere

ENTITLED, an act relating to the general assembly -- permanent joint committee on naming all new buildings, bridges, edifices and other state constructions -- new rhode island veterans home recreation room (Names the recreation room at the Rhode Island Veterans Home as the "Michael Andrade Memorial) {LC3871/1} 01/18/2018 Introduced, referred to Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs

Salute to Veterans

On 16 Jan 2018 over two dozen veterans gathered at Federico Gym, Westerly High School, to support WHS student David Tiedemann’s senior project. The veterans were introduced prior to the varsity basketball game and joined the two teams at half court for the playing of the National Anthem. Donations from that evening will support Operation Stand Down Rhode Island which assists military members and their families with housing, food, clothing and employment services.    

Comments from Raymond Blanda Sr.: “It was an honor to have been part of this event. Knowing that young men like David are here gives us hope for a better future for America. Thank you, David, for being the outstanding young man you are.”

Project Outreach

This service is available to all veterans and their families who are in need of information regarding the numerous resources/agencies that are available. Our Outreach Officer is ready to meet with you the first Wednesday and third Monday of each month from 5 – 6:30 p.m., Post Home. Appointments are not needed to meet with Service Officer Walter Kimball, 401-596-0470.

Veterans of Foreign Wars welcomes all who meet our eligibility criteria. It's through service to this country that all our membership has earned their elite status. If you have received a campaign medal for overseas service; have served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea; or have ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, then you're eligible to join our ranks.

New members are welcome to attend our next monthly meeting 7 Feb, 6:30 p.m., at our Post Home, 113 Beach St., Westerly.  Meetings are the first Wednesday of each month. If you know of a comrade or family of comrade in distress please contact Comrade Dora Vasquez-Hellner, 401-212-6377 for assistance.

This week in military history

1970 – U.S. Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez Jr. spends his 2,000th day in captivity in Southeast Asia. First taken prisoner when his plane was shot down on August 5, 1964, he became the longest-held POW in U.S. history. Alvarez was downed over Hon Gai during the first bombing raids against North Vietnam in retaliation for the disputed attack on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964. Alvarez was released in 1973 after spending over eight years in captivity, the first six months as the only American prisoner in North Vietnam. From the first day of his captivity, he was shackled, isolated, nearly starved, and brutally tortured. Although he was among the more junior-rank prisoners of war, his courageous conduct under horrendous conditions and treatment helped establish the model emulated by the many other POWs that later joined him. After retirement from the Navy, he served as deputy director of the Peace Corps and deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration during the Reagan administration.


Latest Videos