By Mollie Miller
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD Just 48 hours ago, military spouse and Hurricane Rita evacuee Kimberly Mitchell had nearly reached the end of her rope.
After spending countless hours on the phone trying to get through to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Lake Charles, La., resident, whose home was destroyed by flooding, had decided to give up on trying to get assistance for she and her four children.
Little did she know that the assistance she was looking for was right down the road from her temporary home in Harker Heights.
I needed to get milk for the kids and thought it would be cheapest at the commissary (on Fort Hood), Mitchell said.
When Mitchell got to the Visitor Center at the Fort Hood main gate and told a representative why she needed a pass for post, she was directed to Fort Hoods soldier processing center and the newly opened office for Operation We Care.
Operation We Care is a program designed to assist Department of Defense personnel and their families affected by the hurricanes, according to III Corps officials.
The operation was initially established at Fort Polk, La. to help hundreds of Louisiana National Guard soldiers who returned from a year in Iraq to uninhabitable homes following Hurri-cane Katrina.
The staff in charge of the operation, Task Force Care, expanded the program and opened a second office at Fort Hood Monday to offer assistance to any hurricane evacuees who are part of the Department of Defense.
We are here to help people start rebuilding their lives, said Maj. Gen. Daniel Long, the commander of Task Force Care.
Operation We Care can assist personnel and family members in a variety of ways, according to task force member Warrant Officer Maureen Maureen Marshall.
(Peoples needs) range from total loss of home and job to hotel and travel expenses, she said. (DoD personnel and family members) are eligible for a lot of benefits.
After Operation We Care has done everything they can to assist their clients, Marshall said the team will refer them to FEMA or the Red Cross for additional assistance.
(We were directed) to take care of the families, take care of the soldiers now and figure out the paperwork later, said Task Force Care member Lt. Col. Roger Etzel. We are trying to figure out what the families need at this point and establish as wide a net as we can to capture all the services.
Between the Fort Polk and the Fort Hood locations, officials estimate that the team has helped more than 1,500 people and their families.
For Mitchell, Operation We Care at Fort Hood opened just in time.
I was just about to give up before I got here, Mitchell said. I had no idea that anything like this existed but I am so happy I found it.
In just a short period of time, Mitchell was able to get emergency funds and will soon be reimbursed for travel expenses her family incurred during their two day trip from Lake Charles.
Everyone was so nice and helpful, said Mitchell of Task Force Care. I am so glad I decided to go to the commissary.
Etzel said the Task Force Care team will remain active at Fort Hood until the mission is complete.
The bottom line is the (DoD) cares about its people, said III Corps spokesman Lt. Col. James Hutton.
Whatever the problem, Long said Task Force Care staff will do whatever they can to help hurricane victims.
We are going to link them into the resources they need, he said. Anybody who comes in, we will find an answer for.
Assistance through Operation We Care is available to members of any service as well as family members and DoD civilians.
For more information about Operation We Care, visit the task forces office on Fort Hood or call (800) 851-7607.
Contact Mollie Miller at email@example.com