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On the ground for veterans when disaster strikes

At a maximum speed of 170 mph, tornadoes ripped through Alabama earlier this month leaving a swath of damage that ran 26.73 miles long and 1600 yards wide. Far too many families saw the deepest of devastation as 23 people died in the twisters’ wake.

When disaster struck, DAV was on the ground in Alabama providing critical assistance for veterans like Troy Hardy, who lost his home in the devastation. Our team was in the trenches, offering disaster relief by way of essential funds to veterans, or lending a helping hand where needed — assistance that is possible because of your support.

“We went out to find veterans instead of them having to come to us,” said DAV NSO Supervisor Mary Stovall-Moore in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mary was part of a committed DAV disaster relief team in Alabama that included DAV NSO Assistant Supervisor, Michael Smith, DAV Chapter 95 Commander, Freddie Odomes, and DAV Chapter 95 Chapter Service Officer, Eugene Benford. They ventured into the devastation in search of veterans need. What they saw was daunting.

“I had never seen so many homes destroyed and people trying to clean up the debris that was once their home,” said NSO Smith.

Large oak and pine trees were reduced to splinters; mobile homes blown apart; homes with roofs ripped away, and automobiles were crushed.

NSO Smith approached people he saw along the way, asking them if they were veterans.

“I introduced myself as a National Service Officer with Disabled American Veterans, there to assist them during the disaster,” said Smith. “You should have seen the smiles on their faces, knowing that our organization was there for moral and financial assistance.”

Navigating their way through rubble and roads that would suddenly “disappear,” the DAV team discovered veterans like Troy Hardy, whose home was destroyed. CSO Benford had received a text message with Mr. Hardy’s address and the team set out to find him. They followed their GPS for as long as they could, then walked the rest of the way.

“We were able to find Mr. Hardy, but we had to get out of the car and walk a mile to him,” said CSO Benford. “There were downed power lines, trees, logs, and rubble.”

Mr. Hardy couldn’t believe help had arrived.

“He asked, ‘How did you guys find me?’” said Benford. “We told him who were and that we were able to help him and his wife. They started to cry with joy. We hugged them both and it seemed like forever.”

Thanks to DAV’s team working together, veterans in the tornadoes’ path received financial assistance, helping hands, and plenty of hugs.

“Through the hugs and tears that we received from our fellow veterans, we felt that we really made a difference,” said Stovall-Moore. “It feels good to help our veterans, which shows them that the DAV cares about veterans and their families.  This was a very humbling experience for me and it makes you realize how blessed you really are — but I was blessed beyond measure to bring hope to those veterans who were affected by the tornado.”

In 2018, DAV’s Disaster Relief program issued 3,569 emergency drafts to veterans totaling $1,249,100 and provided 305 supply kits. None of this would have been possible with the generous support of donors. MAKE A GIFT NOW to DAV’s Disaster Relief Program so the next time disaster strikes we can help more of our veterans in need.

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