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Military members from Oklahoma set up in Garyville, Reserve to provide water, ice, MREs

GARYVILLE — Members of the National Guard in Oklahoma have joined forces in Louisiana to provide those impacted by Hurricane Ida with water, ice, meals-ready-to-eat and tarps.

St. John the Baptist Parish residents and others in need of supplies can visit Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School, located at 240 Highway 54, and REGALA Park in Reserve from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on any day of the week. Sgt. First Class Randy Allen from Oklahoma said the units will stick around until the area is “up and running again” with electricity and running water. From there, they’ll keep moving south.

Once a vehicle arrives, Allen said supplies are distributed based on the number of passengers. A single person on a daily basis can receive three cartons of water, two MREs and two bags of ice, and their passengers each receive the same. The only limited item is ice, which Allen said is maxed at three bags for a family of four. Passengers have about 20 different menu cases to choose from for the meals, with breakfast, lunch and vegetarian options available. Some meals include breakfast burritos, pasta, chicken and tuna.

“Me personally, I just want to be able to help those that I can when I can,” Allen said. “Because God knows when we’re going to be in a situation and we need people to help us.”

Allen said each MRE is sufficient to feed one person for the day and has an average shelf-life of five years. By lunchtime, he estimated about 1,200 MREs had been distributed, along with a similar amount of water and 1,500 bags of ice.

Allen was in the area providing similar resources following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He’s struck by the kindness of local residents, and said one woman delivered hamburgers and hotdogs to his site for lunch on Saturday.

“For me, I was down here for Katrina. I know how bad it was and how bad people were hurting,” Allen said. “In Oklahoma, we get tornadoes so we go through a lot of the same natural disasters, so a lot of us know how it feels to be in this situation.”

Staff Sgt. Robin Young of the 159th Fighter Wing of Louisiana Air National Guard said he was tasked with overseeing the inventory and reporting up the chain of command to keep supplies stocked. He estimates the site in Garyville had 4,000 pounds of ice, 30,000 bottles of water and 20,000 MREs on Saturday.

“Once our numbers go down, we’ll have another truck to come in and resupply us with inventory so we can keep it going if need-be,” Young said.

For Young, the ability to give back to those impacted by Hurricane Ida comes full circle.

“I was very young when Katrina hit, and my family leaned on a lot of military personnel that came out and distributed MREs, water, ice — whatever they could distribute that helped us,” Young said. “That was a big part of why I joined so I can give that service back to the community. I just love seeing smiles on people’s faces as they’re coming through because you never know what hardship they’re going through. Seeing them get these supplies and seeing the smiles on their face after they get those supplies, it’s nothing like it. It’s totally worth it.”

Warrant Officer I Ryan Quinnelly of the Oklahoma Army National Guard said an estimated 700 vehicles made a stop to his site by 3 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s exactly what we signed up for,” Quinnelly said. “It means everything to us to be able to help the people of Louisiana and providing humanitarian relief to them because who knows, in a couple years, next year, or three months from now we may need them.”