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International, U.S. Sailors Join Forces for Hurricane Relief

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050913-11
Release Date: 9/13/2005 1:49:00 PM

By Journalist 3rd Class Chris Gethings, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs Detachment, Gulfport

BILOXI, Miss. (NNS) -- First Baptist Church in Biloxi, Miss., - the largest Red Cross food distribution center in two states - welcomed volunteer help from more than 200 U.S. and international military service members Sept. 12.

While residents in need continued to pour in to local disaster relief sites across the Gulf states, Mexican marines, Royal Dutch sailors and U.S. Sailors from six commands spent the day giving food, water and other necessities, along with serving hot food, providing medical attention and whatever else that was needed to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

"This is the first time I've helped out during a disaster relief like this," said Dutch Sailor 3rd Class Eric Bruggeling, a propulsion technician on board the Royal Dutch frigate HMS Van Amstel. "It's very nice to be able to help out, especially in a foreign country."

Van Amstel hasn't been home in two months, but Bruggeling says he doesn't even think about that while he's helping out.

The church is the largest distribution site in Alabama and Mississippi, and on its busiest day, loaded more than 4,000 cars with food and water in its drive-through pick-up line. The distribution center served more than 10,000 hot meals and gave out more than 80,000 meals-ready-to-eat to victims of Katrina.

"My family is from Meridian, Miss., so helping the relief efforts is very important to me," said Construction Electrician 2nd Class Daniel Harper, a Seabee with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, based out of Gulfport, Miss. "Katrina hit my hometown as a category 1 hurricane, and I'm sure if my family needed it, someone would be there passing out food and water to them as well. I'm here to make sure all of the people in my current town have someone to pass out food and water to them."

"This is my second time volunteering on the beach during the disaster relief efforts," said Ensign Marlow Levy, a medical corps officer with Fleet Hospital Jacksonville, temporarily attached to USS Bataan (LHD 41) in support of relief efforts. "I think helping like this is a great thing for the military to be doing, because it lets the people see our multiple capabilities, along with how serious we take things like this."

Levy said he likes volunteering because many communities give so much to the Navy, and he jumps at any chance to give back to them.

"It's unfortunate we have to be here," Levy told a patron of the facility, "but it's fortunate we are here."

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