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Luke engineers come to Keesler's aid

BILOXI, Miss. -- Senior Airman Adrian Silerio (left) and 2nd Lt. Scott Thomas dispose of a couch from a home that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  The Airmen are deployed to nearby Keesler Air Force Base from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Brady Smith)

BILOXI, Miss. -- Senior Airman Adrian Silerio (left) and 2nd Lt. Scott Thomas dispose of a couch from a home that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The Airmen are deployed to nearby Keesler Air Force Base from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Brady Smith)

BILOXI, Miss. -- After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area, Stanley Morgan's home was flooded.  Once the water receded, civil engineers who were deployed to nearby Keesler Air Force Base from Luke AFB, Ariz., helped the Morgans clean up the wreckage the hurricane left behind.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

BILOXI, Miss. -- After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area, Stanley Morgan's home was flooded. Once the water receded, civil engineers who were deployed to nearby Keesler Air Force Base from Luke AFB, Ariz., helped the Morgans clean up the wreckage the hurricane left behind. (U.S. Air Force photo)

BILOXI, Miss. -- After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area, Stanley Morgan's home was flooded.  Civil engineers who were deployed to nearby Keesler Air Force Base from Luke AFB, Ariz., helped the Morgan clean up the aftermath.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Brady Smith)

BILOXI, Miss. -- After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area, Stanley Morgan's home was flooded. Civil engineers who were deployed to nearby Keesler Air Force Base from Luke AFB, Ariz., helped the Morgan clean up the aftermath. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Brady Smith)

BILOXI, Miss. -- Antoinette Morgan points out the water line that the floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina rose to in the house her family has lived in for 12 years.  The drywall and insulation had to be gutted and removed because of mold buildup and health concerns.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Brady Smith)

BILOXI, Miss. -- Antoinette Morgan points out the water line that the floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina rose to in the house her family has lived in for 12 years. The drywall and insulation had to be gutted and removed because of mold buildup and health concerns. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Brady Smith)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- Helping repair Keesler after Hurricane Katrina struck the base is not the only thing on the mind of civil engineers deployed here; they are also helping the people here get back on their feet.

The engineers, deployed from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., are helping the 81st Training Wing repair the damage Hurricane Katrina left behind.

Not only are they repairing damage on base, but Sept. 17 they were at Stanley Morgan's house removing moldy drywall, sopping wet insulation, scattered debris, ruined furniture and, unfortunately, memories collected throughout the years.

The infrastructure management chief’s house in nearby Biloxi sits on a foundation about a foot higher than the ground. It was flooded by at least 6 feet water, and many things were still dripping wet when the engineers arrived.

“Losing furniture doesn’t bother me,” said Antoinette Morgan. She pointed down to an old high-school yearbook and some family photos and said, “This is what bothers me; losing personal items of memories. Eleven years of my son’s life is sitting out there in that pile of trash.”

As Mr. Morgan watched the Luke civil engineers carry soaked furniture, saturated wooden dressers, televisions and swollen books to the pile of trash, he was thankful they were here helping.

“It’s a blessing to have them here,” he said. “They’ve saved me tons of hours of work, and what they’re doing for me and even for our neighbor is absolutely a blessing.”

Senior Airman Adrian Silerio, who works in the structure shop at Luke, was here three months ago for a week of training and was able to see the base before Katrina swept through Mississippi.

“Seeing this destruction is unbelievable, and helping Mr. Morgan this way is the least we could do,” Airman Silerio said. “We wish we could do so much more.”

“It’s definitely tiring work, especially with the humidity,” said Master Sgt. Randy Kinser, a flight superintendent. “But there’s nothing better than the feeling of helping someone who needs help. We have helped a number of families around here in this same way, but the very first one was probably the most difficult. That family had little kids and they watched as we threw away all their toys. That was real hard and it affected each one of us.

“When these guys aren’t working at Keesler and fixing things on base, they’re volunteering to help out people like Mr. Morgan,” Sergeant Kinser said.

“It’s nice to put a face to the overall mission, and it’s definitely rewarding when you’re able to help someone directly,” said 2nd Lt. Scott Thomas, a Luke civil engineer.

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