2005-09-07 / Front Page

Guardsmen headed for Hurricane Relief Mission

By Elizabeth Billips True Citizen Associate Editor

The six guardsmen will be hauling supplies The six guardsmen will be hauling supplies Six local guardsmen were deployed last Friday to aid in the Hurricane Relief Mission.

They were unsure of their final destination and hoped to know more when they reached Fort Gillem in Atlanta.

“We don’t know much at this point,” Sgt. First Class Johnny Cook said as cargo trucks were loaded with cases of water and supplies. “They’ll either go to Mississippi or Louisiana and will be there at least fifteen days.”

SFC Cook said the guardsmen will most likely haul food and supplies into the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina and that more local soldiers may be deployed over the next few weeks.

STAFF PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH BILLIPS SPC. Bernard Martin tells his sons, Joey, Ben and Bernard Jr. goodbye before leaving on a flood relief mission last Friday. STAFF PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH BILLIPS SPC. Bernard Martin tells his sons, Joey, Ben and Bernard Jr. goodbye before leaving on a flood relief mission last Friday. Among those who left last week are SPC Bernard Martin, Sgt. Tyrone Flowers and SPC Roosevelt Williams, all of Waynesboro, SSG Thomas Cundiff and SSG Jerry Reed, both of Augusta, and Sgt. Tyrone Williams of Louisville.

The Georgia Army and Air National Guard are expected to provide an estimated 1,500 soldiers and airmen.

According to SFC Cook, the response of the local battery has been overwhelming since news of Katrina’s devastation began to break.

“These are great people,” he said, referring not only to the six deployed guardsmen but the others at home. “We’ve been getting calls all day every day since we were put on alert … they’re not only willing to go help, they want to go help.”

For their families, however, there is a sense of uncertainty, at least partially driven by news footage from New Orleans.

“Every time he leaves, it’s bad … we don’t know what will happen, and it’s rough on the boys,” Brenda Martin said before her husband, SPC Martin hugged her and his three teenage sons goodbye. “From watching the news, I feel like wherever they go is going to be bad.”

For the family of local Department of National Resources (DNR) officer John Bearden those fears have already hit home. Bearden left his post at DiLane Plantation to help with law enforcement in New Orleans and Hammond, La.

“He said it’s awful there … people were shooting at contractors who were trying to work on a bridge,” Bearden’s wife Donna said after he called from a church in Baton Rouge where he lives with other officers and state troopers. “They told John to shoot to kill if he’s shot at.”

Other local DNR officers are on stand-by, preparing to join Bearden’s group next week or to provide security for the 1,000 evacuees expected to arrive at Rock Eagle 4-H Camp in Putnam County.

Although Burke County’s designated Red Cross shelter, First Baptist Church, had not received orders to open as of Tuesday, local volunteers were bracing for the 600 evacuees it is approved to house.

Other local volunteers were called to Richmond County as evacuees trickled into Warren Baptist Church, another Red Cross shelter.

A six-man Georgia Power Company crew from Waynesboro and Louisville spent more than a week restoring power lines in Tuscaloosa, Ala., before moving on to Meridian, Miss.

Another local six-man crew from Planters Electric left last Thursday and is working in Laurel, Miss.

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