Michael Steelman thanked his airborne rescuers Tuesday as they helped him out of a Coast Guard boat and into an Army truck along with his girlfriend, Cathryn Sherrell. The couple had been sleeping in their car after their apartment flooded, didn't have any water and wanted to leave the city out of fear of looters.
"We're going to take care of you," said Spc. Brian Ford, a medic with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The soldiers had started their patrol about noon and still were out at 7 p.m. People who wanted to leave were brought to a command post by boat, put on trucks and taken to the convention center where doctors evaluated them.
Soldiers distributed water and ready to eat military meals to people who didn't want to leave.
"We're not here to force them to leave," said Pfc. Steven Clark, who drove a truck that took people to ambulances. Sometimes water flooded the truck's cargo bed and soldiers were knee-deep in dirty water.
If soldiers see a dangerous situation they can't enter a home by force but have to call the National Guard.
A day earlier, the paratroopers went to homes where there had been 911 calls to see if people still were in the structures.
At one house, soldiers and member of the Coast Guard cut bars on a window to free an elderly woman trapped in her apartment.
"It's good to see us getting out and doing something for the American people," Clark said.
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