Airmen come to aid of Air Force widow

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
  • Air Force Print News
Airmen here are pitching in to help a 72-year-old Air Force widow rebuild her house following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The effort is part of a base humanitarian relief operation partnered with local charitable organizations on 700 cases across the Gulf Coast since the hurricane in August 2005.

"Volunteer efforts from Keesler have always been a mainstay of the Gulf Coast community," said John Lowe, coordinator of the Keesler humanitarian relief operations program. "Everybody on the base pitches in. It has been a real team effort."

In the case of the Air Force widow's home, the house was almost completely covered by mold, forcing her to live in just one room of the house. Mr. Lowe, along with a representative from the Salvation Army, found all of the appliances in the house were broken. He said her quality of life was extremely low at that point.

Mr. Lowe said one of the challenges of the program is the team of volunteers is always changing, which prevents any continuity. But one advantage is that some new volunteers possess crucial skills. One of the Airmen working on this project was a roofer for four years before enlisting in the Air Force, and he was able to help the rebuilding by sharing his expertise.

Airman Basic William Greenlee, a missile and space facilities technical school student, experienced the aftermath of a hurricane firsthand when Hurricane Charlie struck his hometown of Port Charlotte, Fla. This was also not his first time at the Gulf Coast. His last job before enlisting in the Air Force was working for a tree removal company that worked in the area after Hurricane Katrina. Airman Greenlee said he was eager to volunteer to rebuild the widow's house.

"In my hometown, we got hit and I know how nice it felt to know other people cared enough to help us," he said. "It is great to be able to help here and this is my way of returning the favor."

He also said it was nice to see his new Air Force family pitch in to help.

"It makes me feel real good about being in the Air Force because I know if something ever happened to me, there are a lot of people willing to help," he said.

The team is replacing all of the appliances in the house and is going to install a donated central air system. They also plan on replacing all of the widow's clothes and other items like bedding.

Mr. Lowe said the widow started crying with joy when she learned of all of the things that were going to be done. He said there is a plan to throw a welcome home barbecue for her when the house is finished and she returns from her son's house where she is currently staying.

Mr. Lowe said his organization is trying to help as many people as possible.

"These people can't get back into their homes until somebody volunteers to help them rebuild," he said. "We will continue to work until we feel we are not needed anymore."