Defense

Face of Defense: For One Marine, Hurricane Irma Was Personal

By Marine Corps Cpl. Jonathan Sosner, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla., Oct. 4, 2017 — As Hurricane Irma made her way through the Atlantic Ocean last month, Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Diaz, a supply warehouse clerk with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, had something very important on his mind.

Diaz, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, was worried about his mother and sister, who were hunkered down in his hometown, preparing to weather the storm.

“I was concerned if they were all right,” Diaz said. “Puerto Rico didn’t get hit as hard as other places, but it was tough not knowing if they were OK.”

The damage to Diaz’s hometown, while not completely devastating, was significant and has made day-to-day life very challenging. “They had limited food and no water or electricity for four days,” he said. “Compared to other people in the area, they got lucky.”

Knowing how Hurricane Irma had affected his own home, Diaz said, he was motivated to be a part of the 26th MEU aiding the citizens of Key West, Florida, another area seriously affected by the storm, to get back on their feet in its aftermath.

Working Around the Clock

U.S. Marine Sgt. Kevin Diaz, a supply warehouse clerk with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, helps unload supplies in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in Key West, Fl., Sept. 12, 2017. Diaz and his family are natives of Caguas, Puerto Rico, and were personally affected by Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner)

On Sept. 12, Marines and sailors from the 26th MEU arrived off the Key West coast, aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima just days after Hurricane Irma caused devastation across the region. While on the ground, they worked around the clock, clearing roadways and distributing food and water.

“It felt great to help people here who were experiencing some of the same issues that my family was facing back home,” Diaz said. “What we did there made it feel like we made a big difference in their community.”

As a supply warehouse clerk, Diaz was in charge of making sure the Marines and sailors in Key West were getting food and water, a critical part of staying alert and being ready to continue helping the affected community.

“Everything we did over there went really well,” he said. “It was pretty amazing to see how much of a difference we could make in a few days.”

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