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Paratroopers Provide Assistance at New Orleans Mission

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 19, 2005 – The man in charge of a Baptist-run mission set in an impoverished neighborhood here said Sept. 18 that he's glad the Army arrived to help him meet the needs of Hurricane Katrina victims.

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Left to right: Army Sgt. Steven Craig Wright, a 32-year-old 82nd Airborne Division cook from Jefferson, S.C., his assistant, Pfc. Michael Wayne Bennett, 18, from Bristow, Okla., and Algiers restaurant owner George V. Rainey, 74, prepare dinner at St. Mary's Place Mission in Algiers, an old neighborhood in New Orleans, Sept. 18. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"The Army's support has helped us tremendously," said Rev. James N. Brown, who oversees St. Mary's Place Mission in Algiers, an old New Orleans neighborhood across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter.

Brown said 1st Cavalry Division soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, arrived in Algiers a few days after the storm and restored order to a community that experienced chaos due to looting and other crime.

On a boarded-up house across the street from the mission remained the message, "U Loot I shoot," painted onto a piece of plywood.

The reverend noted he fed 19 people at the mission shortly after Katrina left the area. On Sept. 17 the mission fed 422 people, he said. Brown said that number doesn't include the people who come to the mission to obtain military rations, diapers, water, ice, toiletries, and other items.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing ice, water and emergency relief informational fliers for distribution to Algiers' residents, Brown noted.

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, from Fort Bragg, N.C., helped Brown Sept. 18 by providing two military cooks to help prepare meals, as well other soldiers to unload and distribute supplies earmarked for needy residents.

Brown said he's grateful that "more and more help is becoming available."

So is Lisa Foret, the manager at the local Whitney Bank, which is set to reopen soon. Foret said she gives the Army "an A-plus" for its humanitarian work in Algiers.

Restaurant owner George V. Rainey, 74, is volunteering to help prepare meals at the mission and works alongside the 82nd's cooks.

"When a crisis comes, you should be able to give something back," noted Rainey, who has operated his restaurant in Algiers for 40 years. The restaurateur said he hopes to get his business up and running again soon.

Rainey also said he is grateful that the Army arrived, noting Algiers residents "couldn't have survived" after Katrina without the soldiers' assistance.

Army Sgt. Steven Craig Wright, a 32-year-old 82nd Airborne Division cook from Jefferson, S.C., and his assistant, Pfc. Michael Wayne Bennett, 18, from Bristow, Okla., said they're happy to cook food at the mission for Katrina victims.

"This could be us or somebody we know," Wright said.

Compared to combat in Afghanistan or Iraq, conducting humanitarian missions in New Orleans may not seem as "high speed" to some soldiers, acknowledged Staff Sgt. Rodel Yadao, a 28-year-old paratrooper from Maui, Hawaii.

Yet, the 82nd's mission in New Orleans is important because its soldiers were deployed to help people in need and "to show that we care," Yadao said.

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Related Sites:
Military Support in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

Click photo for screen-resolution imageLeft to right: Rev. James N. Brown, his wife, Ellanease, and 4-year-old friend Emily Mora pose for a picture at St. Mary's Place Mission in Algiers, an old neighborhood in New Orleans, Sept. 18. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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