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N.C. National Guard Keeps Order, Offers Kindness In Louisiana

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AMITE, LA. — Most people aren't used to seeing armed military in front of stores such as Wal-Mart, but frustration and desperation can lead to lawlessness. That's why guardsmen are stationed in front of a Wal-Mart store in Hammond, La., where Hurricane Katrina tore through.

Some of these guardsmen include 253 members from 10 armories in North Carolina who are in the Tangipahoa Parish, which is north of New Orleans.

The parish compromises eight towns and a total population of 106,000. But due to the number of evacuees coming to the parish from New Orleans, some towns have doubled or tripled in size.

The National Guard has responded by assisting local law-enforcement authorities.

"When we first got here the local authorities were feeling overwhelmed and overworked," Colonel Mark Hendrick, of the N.C. National Guard, said.

Thousands of people, for example, wait hours to receive federal assistance at the parish social security office in Amite, La.; and the National Guard keeps the process rolling.

"Just the fact that they're here, I think it helps with the order -- keeping order you know," said hurricane victim Diane Gagliano.

But the guardsmen do more than keep order.

Medic David Shoemaker checks on the health of those waiting.

"Everyone here has been absolutely wonderful. These are some of the best people I've ever met," Shoemaker said.

There are people like Curtis Reuben and his mother Florence, who are evacuees from New Orleans. As they sat on a log in trash-strewn grass next to the social security building, they told their story -- of going to shelters in Jackson, Miss., and Atlanta, and of now staying with family in Hammond. Off and on, they said, they have been without water and food.

"It's just heartbreaking sometimes. But they need our help, so we're here for them," Lt. Scott Treadway, of the N.C. National Guard, said.

Reuben said a little kindness from the N.C. National Guard goes a long way.

"It makes you feel a little better to know they are going to offer help to you," he said. "That's great."


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