We sat in the driveway eating perfectly prepared chicken and rice, and over the sound of generators we were singing an Eagles song — our hosts thought it was great fun. It was a welcome break for our sore feet and shrinking stomachs. They were great citizens and we were the “All Americans.”
In 1992 South Florida was destroyed by a hurricane that thought it was a tornado. The police and national guard were overwhelmed. Our barracks at Fort Bragg came alive as we grabbed our kit and scrambled to formation. It was my first deployment; and our unit the 2nd of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was a team of great leaders at every level after deploying in 1988, 89, and 90.
We were airborne within hours, and after landing in my home state (and the home state of some of my platoon mates), we got on helicopters and flew into the Naranja Lakes area of Homestead.
We found a people scared and confused. Our people.
Our team went into action setting up base camps around the area to serve as food/water and medical assistance points for the citizens. While part of the team worked the base camp, the rest patrolled the streets of America looking for injured and unfortunately deceased. We went into damaged homes to serve our fellow Americans.
The police coordinated with us to also patrol at night. There were looters and dangerous gangs in the area and the innocent citizens needed protection. So, we patrolled at night too, walking the streets wearing our distinctive berets and carrying our normally assigned weapons: rifles, pistols, shotguns, grenade launchers and automatic weapons (machine guns). The patrols worked. We walked by gangs that were as well-armed as we were and had no troubles. The citizens felt safe.
It wasn’t long before the citizens morale was lifted, they enjoyed seeing the young paratroopers walking down the streets, they felt safer. It led to some great memories like the one I started this piece with. I can still hear Staff Sgt. Chez playing guitar and I have never tasted a chicken and rice meal that compares. We weren’t afraid of our citizens nor them of us. We didn’t want to get in a gunfight with any criminals, and we avoided it throughout. It would have been a short confrontation anyways as we deployed without ammunition. We were there to help bring some sense of safety to all citizens, not harm anyone.
I want to remind everyone that when we use our active-duty military to help out our states and localities, we aren’t sending in a foreign army. We are sending in our best and brightest. They are led by people who are pretty good at communication, making people feel safe, and controlling their teams. If America needs them, the military will be there, and they will make us safer.
Don’t demonize our military because you don’t like your political leaders. That is a cheap shot at the amazing citizens that make up our joint force. If elected leaders choose to send the 82nd or 101st into our neighborhoods to help keep them safe, those forces will be ably led, and I assure you they completely understand their oaths to this nation. They are you.
Jason Criss Howk is a veteran and interfaith dialogue leader. He served for 23 years in infantry, engineer, and foreign area officer positions conducting defense, humanitarian, diplomatic, education, and intelligence missions. He is humbled to help military families of the fallen, wounded, injured, and ill.