Hearing Haiti’s story
This is the first part in a series of a Corydon man’s firsthand account of life in Haiti since a devastating earthquake Jan. 12.
Though a magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile continues to steal most of the recent headlines, recovery efforts are still continuing in Haiti, which was rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in the country’s capitol of Port-au-Prince. Though the official number will probably never be known, it is estimated that Haiti’s disaster killed more than 210,000 people and left about half of the two million Haitian residents homeless.
The Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, on the western part of the island of Hispaniola, could be felt across the border in the Dominican Republic. The Haitian government estimates that 250,000 homes and more than 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
Greg Milby of Corydon saw firsthand the devastation and desperate needs in Haiti as he recently traveled with the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command unit from Fort Knox, Ky.
Milby, who is a drive-time personality on 98.3-FM WQXE in Elizabethtown, Ky., traveled to and was embedded in Haiti from Feb. 16 through 28. Milby said the trip to Haiti actually started several years ago when Public Affairs Officer Major Paul Hayes visited the radio station to bring community awareness to what the 3rd ESC did in the military town.
‘They wanted me to go to Iraq with them in 2007, but we had some logistical issues and couldn’t make it happen. As soon as the unit got its orders for Haiti, they contacted me and asked how they could make it happen so that I could tell their story and show the community what the unit did when it was deployed,’ Milby said. ‘They wanted me to show what they did and what their jobs were, their experiences in the field and also give them a chance to give a shout-out back home. But, mainly, Logistics Command makes sure the water and the food and the fuel and the medical supplies get to where they need to be. They wanted me to tell that story, and they asked me what they needed to do to get the trip done.’
In three days, several colonels signed off on Milby’s deployment, and he had one afternoon to get his clothing and radio equipment packed and receive a series of shots from the Harrison County Health Department.
Then, from the time he left Louisville en route to Fort Bragg until the time he was back in the Bluegrass state, Milby was under military control, meaning he would travel in military vehicles, eat with troops, live with troops in tents and work alongside troops in the field.
‘It was just like I was a member of that unit,’ Milby said.
His job would be to broadcast military life in Haiti, as well as tell the Haitians’ stories as well. In addition to radio broadcasts, during his stay Milby did four television interviews. Three were for WAVE, WHAS and WLKY in Louisville; the fourth was for Armed Forces Television. He also wound up putting a program together for discussions at schools and writing a blog for the 3rd ESC’s Web site.
‘It was a lot of work, but I was happy to do it,’ he said.
Milby was one of five people who flew out of Louisville on a C-130 Feb. 16, which was his birthday. Milby said he was given earplugs and a barf bag and told to prepare for a long, cold flight.
Upon arrival at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, the crew discovered that some of its cargo had been damaged in flight. A hard plastic tote carrying clear plastic bags of 40 pounds of candy, cookies and other snacks was in bits and pieces as it arrived on a carousel in the airport.
‘But the $4.99 tub I got at Walmart held up,’ Milby said. ‘Every time we tried to carry those big bags, they’d rip, so we wound up getting some wheelchairs to move the candy and stuff to where we needed to be.’
After leaving Pope Field, the plane made a quick stop in Miami to refuel before making the six-hour flight to Haiti.
Next week, Milby describes the destruction he witnessed in Haiti.