Where did you serve and what did you do?
I was a computer-communications systems controller in the U.S. Air Force for 11 years. I had been stationed around the United States, Japan, South Korea and Qatar where I oversaw long-haul communication links between bases and troops downrange, and managed base communications networks.
How are you #StillServing?
I have been an intern at Potrero Hill Health Center since September 2019. We had to cancel our weekly food pharmacy for patients in March due to the shelter-in-place guidelines. Instead, I call around to the various pop-up food pantries in the Bay Area to confirm they are still in operation, and then our staff performs telephone outreach to inform our patients where they can still get nutritious food based on their health conditions. I had been deeply worried about contracting COVID-19 because I live with family, and telephone outreach allowed me to still help our patients without risking anyone’s health.
Every week I would make contact with new food pantries that reopened back up because the need was so dire in their neighborhoods. I became inspired by these people putting their lives at risk to serve our communities, and decided I wanted to work alongside them as long as it was safe. About two months ago, I started volunteering biweekly at the Stonestown YMCA pop-up food pantry near my house which serves about 900 households per week. We mostly perform pre-bagging of fresh produce (e.g. fresh fruit, vegetables), and assorted items (e.g. eggs, grape jelly, tortillas, salted butter) onsite to distribute to clients. In addition, we check people in, hand out groceries and monitor the grocery line so everyone maintains their social distancing.
Why do you do it?
I had been stationed at Keesler AFB, MS during Hurricane Katrina and Misawa AB, Japan during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. In both instances, our base(s) loss power, running water, communications systems, and fresh food had become scarce. Everyone was in shock, scared and desperate for their basic needs to be met. The surrounding civilian communities looked to us for leadership and support during those times. I am eternally proud of how we stepped up in that moment to assist civilian agencies in restoring vital services and rebuilding infrastructure to minimize loss of life.
I feel the same way in this moment when the threat of food insecurity for countless families continues to rise due to unemployment from COVID-19, and our government seems slow to respond. I learned that banding together with your neighbors in a disaster is enough to overcome overwhelming odds, and save countless lives.