N.C. Group Served 70,000 Meals to Pentagon Disaster Workers
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2001 They came from across North Carolina to sweat over huge steaming pots of beef stew, fresh green beans and a slew of other culinary delights to feed rescue and recovery workers at the Pentagon.
When "Camp Unity," as it came to be called, shut down after the last supper on Friday night, Sept. 28, the men and women of the North Carolina Baptist Men's Disaster Relief had prepared and served nearly 70,000 meals. They had been working in tents set up in the Pentagon's south parking lot.
"We served beef stew, pork, chicken, steaks, pasta -- all kinds of home-cooked hot meals," said Tom Beam, the camp's on-site coordinator during the last week. "We always served a meat, three vegetables, bread and a dessert. We served lunch, dinner and what we call the "midnight service" from about 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. to handle the shift changes.
"The Red Cross provides the food, and we do the cooking and serving," Bean said. "In this particular disaster, the Salvation Army distributes food to workers in outer areas, such as the FBI, Pentagon workers and different investigation workers in the field."
The Baptist men's organization travels throughout the Southeast to help victims of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters. They're trained in disaster relief mass feeding.
Beam said the organization is divided up into 10 regions throughout the state. Feeding teams rotated through the Pentagon camp a week at a time.
"We've had all kinds of volunteer help, even some military people," Dave Hall said. "We found out later that four of them were colonels. They didn't want to be recognized for helping. It's just a huge team effort." Someone nicknamed the operation "Camp Unity," and it stuck. By the end, the camp even had its own logo.
Hall and his wife, Shirley, worked two rotations. When they went home after their first week, Red Cross representatives gave them a list of items to bring back. The shopping list was stuff nobody thinks to send, like nail clippers, bandannas and black shoe polish, Hall said in a telephone interview. They had everything with them when they returned for their second rotation the week of Sept. 24, which turned out to be Camp Unity's last week of operation.
"We go wherever there is a disaster, primarily in the Southeastern part of the country, but we've been as far as Oklahoma City and helped out during floods in Missouri," Bean said. "If we're needed, we go."