One team, VA Strong! That’s the VA’s response to Hurricane Matthew and the flooding it’s leaving behind across portions of North Carolina.
While for the past few weeks, you may have kicked off your day stopping by the local convenience store for a hot cup-a-joe, Durham and Fayetteville VA social workers began theirs visiting shelters to locate Veterans and their families who had been displaced by Matthew’s onslaught, providing services and transportation to ensure they are getting the care they need, when and wherever they may need it.
Here’s one Veteran’s reaction:
For VA staff, this has been the daily routine since the storm swept up the East Coast. After all, one team, VA strong has been a rallying cry, as VA employees from across the country arrived to assist in the VA mission of caring for the Veterans of North Carolina and serving civilians through humanitarian assistance, despite the storm and its devastation.
Despite those challenges, VA has remained steadfast in its mission. Two mobile sites were stood up, staffed by VA personnel from across the country, including Virginia, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Delaware, Florida and Illinois. Both sites provided medical care, mental health counseling, medication and hot food services to anyone who stopped by for assistance.
The first to open its trailer doors was the clinic in Laurinburg, North Carolina., for Veterans needing assistance in the Hoke, Robeson and Scotland County region due to impassable roads to the Robeson County Community Based Outpatient Clinic. The second was in Tarboro for Veterans in Edgecomb, Martin, Wilson, Greene and Pitt counties.
And VA community partners have eagerly stepped forward to assist. Three Wal-Mart stores offered large portions of their parking lots to setup the Mobile Medical Units (MMU), Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center offered space and assistance, local officials, and local Veteran services organizations helped spread the word about VA being on the ground, just name a few. Whatever it’s taken, the community engagement and working through the crisis has been a team effort.
At the Durham VA Medical Center’s Tarboro MMU site, Army Veteran Dennis Lyons stopped by to see if he could get a medication refilled for his wife under the unit’s humanitarian aid assistance mission. A short while later, his wife arrived and the VA staff worked through the process of providing just what she needed. Lyons shared his appreciation for assistance and immediately reached out to the rest of his family to let them know the VA was on the ground and could assist them as well.
“I think the VA’s awesome,” he told me. “You all are doing wonderful things for not just Veterans, but for everybody.”
At the Fayetteville medical center’s Laurinburg MMU site, located about two and a half hours southwest, Army Veteran Ramoan Hammond explained that his town of Maxton, was flooded and he still had no power. Without access to his Robeson clinic, he headed to the site after hearing about it on the radio. As he drank a hot coffee being offered by the Veterans Canteen Service truck, he told me of the community’s kindness and response to Matthew and how everyone was lending a helping hand, including the VA.
“On a scale of 1-10 I give the VA a 9,” Hammond proclaimed.
About the author: Jennifer Askey is the VISN 6 communication director. She joined VA in 2010, first serving as the public affairs officer and congressional liaison at the Hampton VA Medical Center.