Cpl. John Riley was 9 years old when Hurricane Katrina ripped through his native New Orleans. So as one of 180 soldiers from Fort Hood assigned to Hurricane Ida relief efforts, he knew what he was walking into.
“I remember being a child and seeing National Guard [members] handing out water or air dropping supplies and being in awe,” said Riley, a Fort Hood soldier assigned to Task Force Truck. “It is great to be able to help people now like we were helped all those years ago. It was a unique opportunity to make an impact on a tough situation and be a positive change in people’s lives.”
Soldiers from the Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, traveled to Thibodeaux, Louisiana, and from Aug. 31 to Sept. 21, Task Force Truck conducted support missions, assisted with recovery efforts and distributed food, water and necessary provisions to citizens reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ida.
And days after returning to Fort Hood, they were awarded the Louisiana National Guard Emergency Service Medal by Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Friloux, the Louisiana National Guard director of the joint staff. The medal honors members who serve during an emergency or crisis as designated by the governor.
Humanitarian mission makes a difference
Friloux, a decorated veteran of operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Iraqi Freedom, individually pinned each award on every member of Task Force Truck.
A theme Friloux discussed during the Sept. 30 ceremony struck Riley.
“Even if you are not from Louisiana, the reason many of us joined was to help others,” Riley said. “Brig. Gen. Friloux explained how it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to make a difference, and this mission was an occasion to do that.”
For Cpl. Madison Wilson, a combat medic, the mission to Louisiana was an eye-opening experience.
“Being from Michigan, I’m not accustomed to seeing the sort of devastation we encountered,” Wilson said. “From downed power lines to high water areas, we were never sure of what challenges our medical team would face every day.”
But overall, she said, it was moving to see the community come together.
“Experiencing the camaraderie of the local people and those helping is something I won’t forget,” Wilson said.
After receiving her award, Wilson reflected on the spirit of the Louisiana people in the midst of suffering.
“The fact that Brig. Gen. Friloux traveled all the way from Louisiana to present us each with this award says something about the gratefulness and camaraderie of the citizens we helped,” Wilson said. “He told us what an impact we made and shared with us the gratitude of the communities we helped.”