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Veterans Assist In Rockaways Relief Effort On Veterans Day

Volunteer: 'It's Probably The Most Hopeful Disaster I've Been A Part Of'
Veterans Volunteer

Veterans volunteer for Sandy relief efforts in the Rockaways. (Credit: CBS 2)

Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Former members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have already given much to the country used this Veterans Day to help storm victims who were still hurting after Superstorm Sandy.

As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the needs were still overwhelming in the Rockaways two weeks after the storm, but the veterans brought in an army of compassion.

“We have 150 veterans out here, plus other veterans groups come in today to mobilize spontaneous volunteers and get work done,” said Andrew Stevens of Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster relief team.

Team Rubicon came to the Rockaways the day Sandy struck. The group is a volunteer organization where military vets are deployed to emergency response teams in crisis situations, according to the group’s Web site.

WEB EXTRA: How To Help | Ways To Volunteer Or Support Relief Efforts

Air Force veteran Nicole Green was among the volunteers lending a hand.

WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports

“They’re very compelled to serve,” Green said of military veterans. “That idea of service is now being translated from the military into their communities and that’s really powerful for them psychologically.”

Another veteran, Isaiah Emanuel, took the subway and two buses just to get to the volunteer site. He was part of the team cleaning the flooded basement of the local monsignor.

“I’m just doing what I can,” he said.

Brendan Kraft has been volunteering in the clean-up effort in the Rockaways since the day after superstorm Sandy devastated the area.

“A few of the residents here on Far Rockaway have been sort of chagrined by me saying that I was reminded a little bit of certain parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Kraft told Silverman.

But the spirit of the Rockaways has not been affected despite the devastation, Kraft said.

“Everybody’s really been upbeat, so it’s probably the most hopeful disaster I’ve been a part of,” he told Silverman.

Veterans donning shovels, face masks and gloves said it was fitting they are lending a hand on Veterans Day.

“There’s nothing better than doing outside the sense of self and helping others. It just feels really great to do,” a veteran with Team Rubicon told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.

“That kind of involvement and action gives first responders on Team Rubicon special skills that we can put into good practice here at home,” Iraq war veteran Matthew Tan told D’Auria.

1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports from the Rockaways

The soldiers of mercy were reinforced by civilian volunteers, arriving in the Rockaways by the hundreds.

“I really want to just help. It’s such a tragedy, but it’s so great that people are coming together at difficult times like that,” said Teo Platikanova, a civilian volunteer from Manhattan.

The mission of mercy was not going unnoticed by the grateful residents of the Rockaways, where American flags sprouted from sand piles on block after block, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.

“I think it’s wonderful that they’re helping everybody. We need the help,” said Rockaways resident Liz Palombo.

Thankful homeowners on Broad Channel Drive said the vets warmed their hearts and protected their bottom line.

“I already had an estimate between $7,000 and $10,000. Seeing a veteran just reminds me of my dad and how much I miss him,” a resident told D’Auria.

“They’re going to be gutting the walls and the floors which, the water we took in was sewage water,” a Rockaways resident told D’Auria.

Hundreds of vets from Team Rubicon and eight other veterans’ organizations participated in the relief effort Sunday.

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