CHESTER - Alpha team landed in San Juan at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. They quickly got to work deliver tents, water filtration systems, and other goods to communities along the Southern Coast that haven’t been reached by the government. Their mission is only just beginning.
"In the morning at 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the morning you feel two or three tremors at a time," said Angel Fernandez.
Constant and unpredictable tremors continue to unset the Southern Coast of Puerto Rico. There have been over 300 earthquakes with a magnitude greater than a 3.0 since December 28th. There were 14 of which Monday alone.
"With the tremors and shakes, they keep weakening the houses down so when you get a 5.0 or 4.9 that’s when you hear some crumbling," said Fernandez.
Fernandez and Jason Wyman’s mission was to set up basecamp for Veterans Response while assessing the needs of those in communities in need. One of the biggest they found was the mental health for people constantly living in fear. An issue difficult for veterans of Operation Desert Storm like Ray Guasp.
"Those memories live with you forever. More importantly, there are certain triggers that bring you back to that time and it’s never a good one," said Guasp.
Guasp says phase two of their operation will focus on bringing therapists to local communities.
"Allow them to work with the kids and some of the adults to treat some of the pain that they’ve gone through the last several weeks," said Guasp.
Pain that has only been amplified by the recent discovery of a warehouse in Ponce filled with supplies meant to be delivered after Hurricane Maria. Fernandez and Wyman responded to the warehouse in hopes of gathering goods.
"In my eyes, I saw what we were seeing as an actual free-for-all," said Fernandez.
Fernandez says the looting and rioting got to a point where they had to pull out.
"People see the videos but being there and seeing it with your own eyes the videos don’t describe exactly what happened," said Fernandez.
Anguish and a lack of trust in the local government that Fernandez believes may never be fixed.
"There is a big trust issue because of what happened with Maria with all the lies and corruption which is still ongoing," said Fernandez.
Veterans Response will continue to provide aid long after the final tremor. Once their mission is completed they plan to help rebuild homes and communities left in rubble.
Their efforts are supported by donations from people wanting to help. You can donate to Veterans Response by clicking here or buy goods from their Amazon wish list by clicking here.