In Louisiana’s time of need, the American Legion Family stepped up.
Hurricane Ida struck near Grand Island on Aug. 29, and is considered the second-most destructive hurricane to hit the state, behind only Katrina. Ida has caused at least $50 billion in damages, while flooding and power outages continue to plague recovery efforts.
“Ida hit Houma, Thibodaux and went up to Baton Rogue,” said Past Department of Louisiana Commander Byron Comeaux. “Houma was hit the hardest. We only got electricity back two days ago,” he said on Sept. 14.
Some rural areas rely on well water. And without electricity, there is no safe water available for drinking, cleaning, bathing and more.
Almost half of the state’s 200 posts were in Ida’s path. Among those damaged or affected are Post 31 In Houma, Post 96 in Morgan City, Post 502 in Baton Rouge and Howard Johnson Post 583 in Gonzales.
The plight of Louisiana prompted Department of Indiana Commander Mark Guillion to help out.
“Seeing the damage and devastation that they have gone through in the last few years, I just thought this is what The American Legion in Indiana needs to do,” he said. “We just decided that we needed to help our fellow Legionnaires and veterans in this relief effort.”
Guillion, a member of American Legion Post 500 in Speedway, led a fundraising drive and personally delivered relief supplies this week. In four days, the department raised $10,000 in donations to pay for the supplies. The donations came from the entire American Legion Family, districts, posts and members.
“It means a lot to me. It’s sad to see the living conditions and the damage and the flooding that are wiping out parts of the state,” he said. “But this is what The American Legion is all about. It makes you feel good and we are happy to assist.”
Indiana delivered a 26-foot truck packed full of wheelbarrows, rakes, shovels, crowbars, blowers, axes, batteries, bleach, toilet paper and totes.
“That was outstanding,” Comeaux said. “Usually no one brings totes but they are very important because we use them, unload them and then use them again and again.”
The timing of the Sept. 14 delivery coincided with another major storm, Nicholas, which has been downgraded from hurricane to a tropical depression. Still, Nicholas is dumping more water on a region that is already flooded.
“We’re anticipating another major storm today,” Comeaux said, referring to Nicholas. “When it made landfall at the Texas-Louisiana border, it was a hurricane. It’s raining. It’s overcast. The wind is blowing hard.”
Earlier, American Legion Post 46 in Ann Arbor, Mich., delivered four pallets of water and other aid.
Comeaux said as supplies are received, they are immediately distributed to posts in need. “They are cleaning up their community, they are cleaning up their post,” he explained.
“This is what we have done as veterans — no veteran left behind,” Comeaux said. “And now we are doing it. And we have our great organization, The American Legion, that is. We’re helping not only veterans but individuals in the community. We are helping our kids, our community and our veterans.”
The American Legion National Emergency Fund (NEF) assists those affected by natural disasters like Ida. The fund provides up to $3,000 for qualified American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members, and up to $10,000 for posts. To apply for a grant or learn more about NEF eligibility requirements and more, please visit this web page.
NEF applications will come later, Comeaux said, adding that now is the time for cleaning up, restoring power and edging back to normalcy.
“What Legionnaires all over the world are giving today is helping on the ground right now,” he said. “Donations are going right to those who need them. We are able to feed them, give them hope, help them.”
Aid from American Legion Family members, community groups and others continues to come in. However, Department of Louisiana Adjutant Tony Betts said donations will be needed for some time.
“The damage will probably take years to recover from,” he said. “While we are subject to hurricanes every year, we learn lessons from every one that hits us. We prepare as best as we can, and pray for mercy from Mother Nature. Information is still slow coming in due to electrical power outages and communication networks being destroyed.”