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Haiti earthquake: a sailor’s call to help
by By Catherine H. Reilly Special to the Bee-Picayune
May 17, 2012 | 1199 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Catherine H. Reilly recounts the devastation following the recent earthquake in Haiti. She served the Navy two years on board the USS Carl Vinson in Norfolk, Haiti, San Diego, and one West Pacific deployment. In Haiti, she was assigned to work in Air Traffic Control, keeping track of all personnel and cargo off-going and on-coming the ship. They delivered more than 1 million pounds of supplies in two weeks.
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No matter a time of war or a time of need, America is there with purpose.

Whether we are creating allies, setting matters straight in foreign countries or helping relieve disaster, our dedication will continue on land, sea and air. Every soldier, sailor, marine and airman has a story. My story began selfless and has yet found its end.

Departing Norfolk, Va., a Navy ship, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), was about to embark on its homeport change to San Diego, Calif.

We had been looking forward to this trip for years.

The captain had promised a mission of liberty, rest and relaxation.

Years up to this point were spent in overhaul and refueling while the ship was being recommissioned in the Northrop Grumman Ship Yard — a place no sailor wants to serve his time.

On Jan. 12, 2010, we set sail, all anticipating new dreams and new futures in our soon to be homeport.

What we didn’t know was happening this same day was we were being redirected to respond to one of the largest natural disasters happening in the world – an earthquake hitting Haiti.

It took approximately three days to get to Florida, where we spent countless hours loading on 19 helicopters for task at hand. We then headed south; 15 miles outside Port Au Prince, Haiti.

On the 15th of January, we anchored out and went to work.

Every department, everybody and every piece of equipment were utilized.

Our roving security watches were reporting dead bodies in the water.

Below decks, the engineering department was producing four times the amount of potable water.

Up top on the flight deck, airmen and pilots both worked hand in hand, loading supply and personnel onboard aircraft for delivery to land.

Inside the skin of the ship, the remaining five thousand sailors continued their jobs, while partaking in activities that helped alleviate stress.

Each job, as little or big as it seemed, was demanded with high importance and was executed with devotion and honor from the heart.

Of all the famous people coming onboard to witness us in action, we knew we were doing something with meaning.

Heck, having them there wasn’t even a neck-jerker to us.

After two weeks of hard labor and long countless hours, the Commander in Chief relieved us of our duty.

We were tired.

We had seen more disease and death and heard more cries than we ever imagined.

Though the Vinson had completed its mission in Haiti, the Navy itself had not.

Another naval vessel, along with other relief teams continued with Operation Unified Response.

Since then, the U.S. government has paid more than $170 million in humanitarian aid.

I cannot begin to express what goes through my heart for this country and its Department of Defense.

Being a part of a force that has such an impact on both good and bad is breathtaking.

My heart swells with honor and pride knowing what we do is surely God’s will.

Seeing the smiles on those little faces made grown men cry. Seeing those men cry made me cry.

I’ll never forget my first enlistment serving for the United States Navy onboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70).

Every country on this planet has a defense system. Though one may control more power and supremacy, few have lived up to America’s armed forces. Our flag is known worldwide for its symbol of liberty and freedom.

Our country is envied for its way of life and, in a lot of places, depended on for its creditability and strength.

What we have is a gift. I hope we don’t take this for granted; yet, influence one another to count our blessings and be thankful for where we live and what we can do.

Editor’s note: Below is the account of Catherine H. Reilly, a member of the U.S. Navy. While in Haiti, she was assigned to work in air traffic control, keeping track of all personnel and cargo off-going and on-coming the ship. They delivered more than 1 million pounds of supplies in two weeks. She is the daughter of Joan Adkins Reilly of Beeville and granddaughter of Effie Joe Adkins (Mrs. Teal Adkins) of Beeville.
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