In the immediate aftermath of the multiple natural disasters in 2017, our Disaster Relief and Response Fund was there to rescue the rescuers. Over 30 days, the United States Coast Guard saved over 12,000 lives and its helicopters and planes flew over 2,400 hours. Throughout this incredible response, many members were personally impacted with these first responders often being the first victims.
During Hurricane Harvey, we worked onsite with the Coast Guard Disaster Response Team to quickly assess and issue support to Coast Guard members in Texas with personal property damage, catastrophic loss, and immediate needs of housing, food and transportation. We engaged the Chief Petty Officer Association on a national level to distribute our initial relief funds within 2 days of requests.
Once Hurricane Irma struck Florida and the Caribbean, and Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, our response pivoted to assisting Coast Guard families that were evacuated from their homes with limited belongings, to new temporary housing in Florida. Thanks to our generous supporters, these families were met on the tarmac with VISA cards to help cover their immediate needs like clothing, toiletries and family essentials. Some of these evacuees have returned to their homes in Puerto Rico to address their cleanup and rebuilding efforts, while others remain displaced, living in temporary housing, while their Coast Guard spouses are still deployed to the devastated areas.
Thanks to your support we created special Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings for families who were living in temporary housing. It was important to gather together during this very difficult time to thank Coast Guard family members for their service and sacrifice.
Now that most Coast Guard families are reunited and returning to their homes, we are standing by to assist them in rebuilding and restoration efforts. As I write this update, Coast Guard crews in Puerto Rico are working tirelessly to assist their communities while experiencing the same food shortages, power outages and internet disruption.
We are also assessing the damage done to many Coast Guard stations and sector properties. With our long-standing support of Coast Guard morale and wellness programs, we are now ready to begin rebuilding exercise areas, crew lounges and playgrounds to assure the well-being of these brave men and women stays strong.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of our generous supporters. Our actions have made a real and lasting impact on Coast Guard families - together, we are helping families recover and rebuild.
Susan P. Ludwig