U.S. Service Men and Women Eligible for Humanitarian Service Medals Following Their Disaster Relief Efforts

Many of us hear about a friend or family member being in the military. And we immediately think about them fighting overseas in places like Afghanistan.

But as extreme weather events have taught us, there’s plenty of important work for our troops right here at home. Especially over the past two years.

Many risked their lives for hurricane victims last year. Including members of the National Guard, as well as local guards in Texas, Florida and elsewhere.

And they’re always standing by to do the same at a moment’s notice. That’s what heroes do. And it’s great to see many of them getting the recognition they deserve.

Hurricanes Brought out the Best in Our Heroes

The Army made an announcement this past week. Thousands of troops are now eligible for the Humanitarian Service Medal. This includes soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

That’s because of the selfless disaster relief efforts they provided. Especially in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The Army has set rules determining eligibility for the medal. A service member must have “directly participated in the humanitarian act or operation during the periods listed and (have been) physically present in the affected area.”

President Gerald Ford’s 1977 executive order created the Humanitarian Service Medal. It recognizes service members for meritorious service in humanitarian relief efforts.

Placing Themselves in Harm’s Way

Rescuing people during hurricanes is serious business. We’ve all seen enough dramatic television footage to know this.

A Houston officer named Steve Perez drowned in a flooded-out underpass. It occurred as he tried to reach his duty station during Hurricane Harvey.

His wife pleaded with him to stay home that day, but he responded by saying, “We’ve got work to do.” Then he headed out to try to rescue city residents stranded by flooding.

Many National Guardsmen do the exact same thing. They put themselves in harm’s way to try to get people to shelters as their lives are threatened by severe weather.

Ready at a Moment’s Notice

Often these rescues involve a large amount of physical exertion.

For example, Texas National Guardsmen waded through rising waters to reach houses. Then they hoisted adults who were unable to walk onto their backs and carried them to safety.

And they have to be ready to plunge into action right away, no matter what else they are doing at the time.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, our military took action. They mobilized 50,000 National Guardsmen and 20,000 active-duty forces. During Harvey, they activated all 12,000 of the Texas National Guard.

As a result, they rescued thousands of people who might have otherwise perished in the storms.

Going Wherever Needed

And these heroic service men and women come from all over, not only the states where the carnage is taking place.

During Hurricane Harvey, troops rushed to Texas to assist in relief efforts. This included hundreds of Airmen from the Air National Guards. And they came all the way from Kentucky, Mississippi and elsewhere.

They delivered cargo, established airfields and participated in aeromedical evacuations. Whatever they needed to do to save lives. Often at the risk of their own lives.

Some Florida Guard members were serving in Texas during Hurricane Harvey. But suddenly they were recalled to their own state to deal with Hurricane Irma.

A Well-Deserved Honor

Colonel Bruce Bancroft, the Kentucky Air National Guard unit’s commander, said this before liftoff. “We are 100 percent ready to execute this mission and get relief to the people of Texas.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with the folks in Houston. And we’re looking forward to the opportunity to put our skills into action. At a time like this, we’re all Texans.”

Yes, the Humanitarian Service Medal is a very fitting honor. These service men and women put other people’s safety and lives ahead of their own.

A very fitting honor, indeed.


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