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Masonry specialist Tyson Klemm of Radcliff is from New York.
He never had seen that part of the state when he responded with the U.S. Army 19th Engineer Battalion to assist after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area.
About 200 soldiers from the battalion were honored Tuesday at Fort Knox after returning from a deployment to New York to help with relief efforts.
Klemm was glad to be part of the aid sent to the area he’s from and to help Americans, a more personal mission than going overseas.
“With all my years in the Army, I’ve learned to shut off my feelings, so it hit home, but we were just glad to be there,” he said.
They were deployed to New York on Nov. 2-3 to provide command and control for water pumping devices, which were operated by more than 600 service members from all branches of the military. They also cleaned up debris.
The unit removed more than 13.2 million gallons of water and 1,350 tons of debris during the deployment.
Wallace Bandeff of Vine Grove 76th Engineer Commander, said the men and women in his unit had a sense of accomplishment after their work and were a little surprised to realize how much they had done before coming home the week of Thanksgiving.
They were excited to be able to help after the storm, he said.
There was a lot of sadness in response to the devastation in the area, but homeowners were glad to see military members, Bandeff said.
“It was a very welcoming environment,” he said.
Carpenter Marcos Rivera of Radcliff summed up his part of the work simply.
“Removing trash, removing trash and removing more trash,” he said.
Klemm said duty was difficult at times because of all the debris residents set out for soldiers to throw away from daybreak until dark.
“You can say trash, but it’s everything they’ve had their whole lives,” he said.
Despite such circumstances, residents thanked the soldiers and gave them thumbs-up signs as they rolled through town, Klemm said.
It was a good feeling to help within the nation’s borders, he said.
Rivera said the response to being called up was as fast as soldiers have trained for it to be. The unit had its gear packed and was ready to go within 96 hours, he said.
“Once it came down,” it spread like wildfire,” he said.
Electrician Tyler Jock of Radcliff said responding to the storm was bad because of what happened to people on the East Coast and how some families lost their homes, belongings and keepsakes.
It was also good because at least military members responded quickly, and he was glad to be part of that mission, he said.
“It was great that we could help them out any way that we could,” he said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.