OMAHA, Neb. — The Nebraska National Guard sent historians to the Southeast and the Caribbean to document the stories of citizen soldiers from the affected areas who helped with recovery efforts.
Four historians accompanied the nearly 300 helicopter pilots, doctors, medics and security personnel from Nebraska that responded after Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, the Omaha World-Herald reported . The public affairs soldiers write, edit and produce print stories and video pieces.
Staff Sgt. Sherri Maberry and Major Maj. Andrew Nelson were sent to Florida in September for two weeks following Hurricane Irma. The Category 4 hurricane hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. It inflicted nearly $50 billion worth of damage and caused 82 deaths in the state.
“We were prepared for the worst,” Nelson said.
The historians focused their efforts on interviewing the Florida National Guard’s leaders, but they also documented the stories of some of the first soldiers who responded to the hard-hit Keys.
Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen and Capt. Cody Cade were sent to Puerto Rico in November to document the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The storm had hit the area nearly two months prior with wind speeds of up to 155 mph. The storm killed dozens and destroyed the area’s power grid.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Nissen said. “We were arriving so many days after the storm, and it looked like it had just been through the day before.”
The pair conducted 70 interviews, took thousands of photos and collected gigabytes of data for the Puerto Rico National Guard’s archives before coming home last month.
“We put every ounce of energy into capturing these stories,” Nissen said. “If we don’t catalog all these great things that are happening, how would anyone ever know?”