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Sailors from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), along with volunteers from other embarked units aboard, have been working tirelessly to assist in the disaster relief efforts in Haiti since Sept. 7.
“We are absolutely in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. We are helping to bring order to chaos,” said Kearsarge Commanding Officer Capt. Walter Towns over the ship’s 1MC while thanking all the military members who volunteered to assist in working parties ashore in Port-au-Prince.
Towns explained to Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis during her visit to the ship Sept. 9, that so many people aboard have volunteered to help that organizers are having to turn people away.
Suffering from massive flooding after being pounded by tropical storms Fay, Gustav and Hanna, Haiti faced even more devastation as Hurricane Ike passed over the northern part of the country causing the destruction of homes, bridges and roads.
On Sept. 5, U.S. Southern Command directed Commander, 4th Fleet to divert the amphibious ship from its humanitarian/civic assistance mission in Colombia to assist the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in mitigating human suffering and loss of life.
“The countryside is ravaged by flood waters,” said Seaman Scott Polk, while flying over farmland and small towns outside Gonaives.
“People are walking in almost knee-deep flood water, and families are sleeping on the rooftops of their homes. This is hard work; it’s hot and the bags of rice weigh almost 100 pounds, but my worries don’t even compare to the Haitian people, so I’ll push through this day and bring relief to those who are in need.”
The working party volunteers have been assisting the air crew from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, loading and unloading bags of food supplies over the past two days.
“The Haitian people have been assisting us unload the helicopters or showing us support from a short distance with waves and smiles,” said Seaman David Stevenson.
“We have been well received by Haiti; you can see the relief in their expressions. There is a lot of support at work for the Haitian people. The World Food Program folks and U.N. are out here lifting these heavy bags of rice with us. The people of Haiti needed us and we are here for them.”
Kearsarge is in the Caribbean supporting phase two of Continuing Promise 2008, a humanitarian assistance mission that includes assisting partner nations impacted by natural disasters and other emergencies resulting in human suffering or danger to human lives.