Dozens of troops with Louisiana National Guard 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were handed checks Thursday to help meet their immediate recovery needs following Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
A GoFundMe account set up by the Acadiana Veteran Alliance, along with donations from Energy Transfer and the New Orleans nonprofit, Got Our Troops Foundation, raised $20,000 for the effort. Col. Scott Desormeaux, brigade commander, said many troops who are preparing to deploy overseas for active duty lost their homes after the storms.
“You are still willing to be here and serve,” he said. “I’ve always felt that that speaks to the connection you as soldiers have with the community. Even though you’re being affected by the very same storms as your fellow citizens in the community, you’re still responding.”
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser praised the Louisiana National Guard for helping the state rebound in the days and weeks after Laura and Delta, along with aiding in recovery after other major hurricanes and disasters.
“I don’t know if Louisiana would have survived these storms, going back to (Hurricane) Katrina, without the National Guard,” he said. “They’re out there risking their safety, never saying no, always rising to the occasion.”
Nungesser said he wants to make sure every Southwest Louisiana resident impacted by the hurricanes can return home.
“I will come over here as often as it takes to let these people know they’re not forgotten,” he said. “They need to know we care.”
Andrew Ward and Jonathan Deshotels, founding members of the Acadiana Veteran Alliance, said the GoFundMe account was set up the day after Hurricane Laura made landfall. Once the account reached its $10,000 goal, the alliance reached out to the Got Our Troops Foundation, which helped raise another $10,000 for the cause.
“We were both national guardsmen at one time, and these are our people,” Ward said. “It didn’t matter what part of the state they were in. We were going to help them.”
The destruction left behind by Laura and Delta was difficult to put into words, Ward said.
“The little bit that we can do for these guys that put their time and days on the line for us, it’s easy to give back to them,” he said.
Sgt. Jacob Arceneaux is from Mire, La., and has served for seven years in the Louisiana National Guard. He said he will spend the money on rebuilding damaged barns at his family’s property, one of which was 120 years old.
“Any little bit helps right now, especially with all the damages,” Arceneaux said.
Arceneaux said he was impressed with the level of help from people throughout the country.
“I’ve been seeing strangers, not just from Louisiana, but from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas,” he said. “I think that speaks a lot for the community and for this country as a whole.”
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