President Obama honors Haiti relief personnel

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In a White House Rose Garden event, President Obama and Haiti’s President Rene Preval honored those who answered the call in response to the earthquake that struck Haiti back in January. Click here to read their remarks.

“We’re joined by our disaster response teams, who were on the scene within 24 hours; our military personnel who quickly reopened the airport and the port, making way for a massive humanitarian effort; our search and rescue teams, who crawled into the rubble to pull survivors out to safety, Haitian and American; the volunteer physicians and nurses and paramedics who treated tens of thousands of patients with life-threatening injuries; and all our men and women in uniform who have helped to distribute desperately needed food and water and medicine to millions of people — our remarkable soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

I just want to personally say how extraordinarily proud I am of each and every one of you, because I think you represent what’s best in America. And I could not be prouder of the response that all of you were engaged in during this humanitarian crisis.” (President Barack Obama, March 10, 2010)

The Coast Guard was represented by Health Services Technician First Class Elias Gomez of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (who also recognized at Admiral Allen’s final State of the Coast Guard) and Electronics Technician First Class Marcel Leroy of Maritime Safety and Security Team 91114 operating out of Miami.

Here are their Haiti stories …

Electronics Technician First Class Marcel Leroy enjoying a lighter moment during his time in Haiti supporting earthquake relief operations. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Electronics Technician First Class Marcel Leroy enjoying a lighter moment during his time in Haiti supporting earthquake relief operations. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

ET1 Marcel Leroy played a pivotal role during the disaster relief efforts in Port au Prince, Haiti from Jan. 14 to March 06. Three days after the devastating earthquake, ET1 Leroy was hand selected to serve as the primary interpreter for U.S. Coast Guard forces deployed with the Department of Homeland Security. His critical involvement included interpreting Spanish, Creole, and French for Haiti Immigration Officials at the American Consulate, verifying passports and visas. He validated over 900 a day for three weeks, working 16 hour days. Petty officer Leroy processed14,000 American Citizens through the evacuation process at the airport.

He provided crowd management, health screening and treatment, as well as feeding, watering, providing hearing protection for children, and verifying manifests prior to the boarding of Department of Defense flights. Working amid the devastation and braving large after-shocks with extremely limited medical supplies, Petty Officer Leroy immersed himself with multiple medical units under conditions as austere as any battlefront. Petty Officer Leroy conducted 10 medical evacuations and treated over 400 critically wounded patients with injuries ranging from compound fractures to crushed limbs, traumatic amputations and avulsions, and paralyzing spinal injuries. ET1 Leroy assisted the United Nations by distributing over 20,000 tons of food and translating the allocations to each Haitian.

Amidst all the chaos of the disaster, ET1 Leroy lost his aunt when a building collapsed on top of her. She was visiting Haiti for a funeral and decided to stay home and cook for the family when the tragic event occurred. Despite this overwhelming loss, ET1 Leroy stayed focused and executed his assigned duties flawlessly. Demonstrating incredible professionalism and acumen that far–surpassed that of an electronics technician, he assisted hundreds by his actions and improved the quality of life for thousands of others during Haiti’s darkest hours.

A native of Boston, Mass., Petty Officer Leroy enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1995. He has been integral to the Coast Guard as an interpreter his entire career. He has served on the Coast Guard cutters Decisive, Resolute, and Venturous, and at Electronic Support Unit Honolulu and Electronic Support Detachment St. Petersburg. He has been married for 14 years and is currently in the process of adopting a child from Haiti.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – HS2 Elias Gomez talks about his experiences while helping Haitians after the recent earthquake. Click on the image to watch the video.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – HS2 Elias Gomez talks about his experiences while helping Haitians after the recent earthquake. Click on the image to watch the video.

HS1 Elias Gomez played a pivotal role as a primary medical care provider from Jan. 12 to Jan. 18  in Port au Prince, Haiti. The day after the devastating earthquake, U.S. Coast Guard forces began to assist Haitian Coast Guard forces establish a beachhead clinic at the Haitian Coast Guard base in Killick – on the western outskirts of Port au Prince. Petty Officer Gomez, one of only two medical corpsmen at the scene, went ashore and immediately began the grueling task of treating survivors until additional medical professionals arrived some four days later.

Working amid the devastation and braving large after-shocks with extremely limited medical supplies and under conditions as austere as any battlefront medical unit, Petty Officer Gomez immersed himself in treating over 300 critically wounded patients with injuries ranging from compound fractures to crushed limbs, traumatic amputations and avulsions, and paralyzing spinal injuries. In one case, Petty Officer Gomez spent six hours inserting fifty sutures and twenty staples to reattach the scalp and forehead of man injured by falling debris. Demonstrating incredible professionalism and medical acumen that far–surpassed that of a health services technician, he saved dozens of lives by his actions and improved the quality of life for hundreds of others during Haiti’s darkest hours.

A native of East Los Angeles, Calif., Petty Officer Gomez enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1997. The Mohawk is his second afloat assignment. He has been married for seven years and has four children.

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