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Soldiers, Volunteers Head Out To Assist In Hurricane Relief

Local citizens help with Katrina cleanup

As relief efforts continue in the Gulf Coast region of the country, local individuals are answering the call to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

White Salmon resident Clara Carlock said her grandson, Matt Carlock -- who serves in the 162nd Infantry Battalion of the Oregon National Guard -- is now on duty in Louisiana.

"He flew out of Portland to a naval base in Louisiana," said Clara.

Spc. Matt Carlock went there with two other White Salmon soldiers with the 162nd, Staff Sgt. Kevin Wilson and Cpl. Mark Fuwell.

"They will be there two weeks to two months. They have no idea," Clara said. "They were looking forward to it. Matt was happy to be going. We talked to him the morning before they left Gresham."

Clara added that she had no idea when she might hear from Matt next.

"I think he'll be too busy to be calling," she explained. "They will be on the night shift they said, but who knows, once they get back there. They will be acting as policemen."

Clara added that she was concerned about the conditions in the region.

"It's terrible. It'll be terrible duty," she said.

Bea Wilson, wife of Staff Sgt. Kevin Wilson, knows what it is like to be a military wife. Kevin has already served two tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait, and those times were highly stressful for her.

However, she sees this mission in a somewhat different light.

"It's not as stressful for a few reasons," Wilson explained. "He's in the states; he's serving our fellow countrymen; and it's a good thing he's doing. I don't have a fear so much of the unknown. What I fear the most is the diseases that are starting up."

She added that her husband said the devastation in New Orleans is unbelievable.

"He has been in two wars, and many Third World countries. He thought he'd seen the worst of the worst. But he said this is worse than any war zone he's ever been in," Wilson said.

Wilson added that she appreciated the show of local support for those with family members serving in the military. As an example, she pointed out that the night before her husband was flown to Louisiana, the couple were at Los Reyes restaurant in Bingen. Kevin was in his Army uniform, and two diners at a neighboring table bought the Wilsons' dinner for them anonymously, and left before the couple could thank them.

"We got our bill, and there was a slip of paper there that said, `thank you for your service and sacrifice,'" recalled Wilson. "It's that kind of caring and giving that shows there are people that really care. I want to personally thank the two ladies at Los Reyes who were there on Wednesday night, Sept. 6."

The local National Guard units could be on duty in Louisiana for 45-60 days, Wilson said.

"It could be longer, or it could be shorter. You never know. That's the way the military is," Wilson explained. "I'm proud of Kevin. He's doing a good thing, and gosh darn it if he isn't really good at that job."

On another front, Janet Holen is among several from the White Salmon area and thousands across the nation who have volunteered to help the American Red Cross cope with the unparalleled disaster spawned by the hurricane's fury.

Nationwide, the Red Cross is in the process of training approximately 40,000 new volunteers to take care of the homeless and support recovery operations in the storm-ravaged area.

Holen is a registered nurse with experiences that could serve her well if she is sent to the Gulf Coast region.

"I know what it's like to work in an operating room without running water, and know what it's like to depend on someone else to get us food to eat," Holen explained. "This work would be a little less of a culture shock for me than for someone else."

Holen said her 10 hours of "fast-track" instruction in Hood River -- under the heading of "mass care disaster relief operations" -- is nearly complete, and she could be called to duty at any time.

"They could send us wherever they need someone," Holen explained. "I could go anytime, anywhere. Sometimes they tell people, `just keep your bags packed.' I'm assuming I'll be involved in a shelter operation, and the work is the same wherever it is in terms of running shelters. Our first priority will be to provide a safe place to sleep, and for food."

Kirby Richards, another Red Cross volunteer, has already been sent off to Montgomery, Ala., to help with relief efforts. Richards, who left for Alabama on Sept. 10, is one of 25 Gorge area residents who trained to help with the aftermath of the hurricane.

Nick Denton, owner of Signs & Designs, a White Salmon business, is also playing a role in disaster relief. Denton is a logistic officer and a national instructor for the Red Cross.

Denton said more volunteers would be welcomed.

"We're always trying to get good volunteers from the community, to get a bit of training, and if they have time, to go on the disaster relief efforts," Denton said. "There is room for everybody."

The Red Cross limits service to 21 days on duty at a time for volunteers, in order to limit stress to their physical or mental health.

"We may go more than once," Holen said. "This effort is going to be going on for six to eight months."

As of Sept. 6, the Red Cross had opened 580 shelters in 17 states to take care of those displaced by the hurricane. More than 18,000 Red Cross volunteers were serving as relief workers.

Denton pointed out that there are about 30 different jobs handled by Red Cross volunteers involved with disaster relief operations, and no specific skills are required.

Denton said those seeking to volunteer for the Red Cross could call (541) 386-6000.

"I'm just proud of the many thousands of Red Cross workers in that area helping these people," he added. "I'm very proud of what the Red Cross has done."

Holen urged local citizens to support the Red Cross, and pointed out that the organization is not funded by the federal government.

"Every dollar is donated," Holen said. "All disaster services are provided free of charge as a gift of the American people."

April George, a Snowden resident, said there is another way for local residents to help in the relief effort.

"There is a Web site on-line to help the hurricane victims find housing," George said. "If people want to find or offer housing, they can go to www.hurricanehousing.org and advertise their offer of free housing, be it a home, apartment, or room in their home."

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