NEW YORK -- Marines from the 8th Engineering Support Battalion (8th ESB) from Camp Lejeune, N.C., spent Veterans Day weekend continuing relief efforts for New York residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and caused the most damage in New York and New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012.
Eighth ESB is assisting the residents of Breezy Point, a community of less than 5,000 people that was one of the hardest hit during the hurricane. Relief efforts have been ongoing with many residents returning to their homes only yesterday.
“Everybody that lived in Breezy lost the first floor,” said Dennis Joseph Lynch, 65 year-old, retired Marine and veteran of the Vietnam War. “Any house you see that’s just one floor, they lost the whole thing.”
“The help that we’ve gotten from the troops has been… overwhelming,” said a teary-eyed Lynch. “I’m a Marine. But I’ve had Navy, I’ve had Air Force, I’ve had Army. And you know, uh, it’s helped a lot.”
Eighth ESB was requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of Task Force Pump to assist Breezy Point with the dewatering effort. The battalion has already pumped out more than 3.5 million gallons of water back into the ocean.
“We worked here the first few days pumping out some of those low lying areas where most of the water had accumulated,” said Major Craig Clarkson, the detachment commander of 8th ESB. “Then as the residents started coming in, they started pumping out their basements and a lot of those areas we had already pumped out started getting filled in again.”
“We’ve also been doing access clearing,” said Clarkson. “In order to get some of our pumps into the area and create access ways for the emergency workers and the utilities workers, we’ve had to use our combat engineers and some heavy equipment.”
“This is a very tight-knit community and all the residents have come and pitched in,” said Clarkson. “A lot of the guys are either FDNY (New York City Fire Department) or New York Police Department guys, so everybody’s been out in force helping one another. They just didn’t have the capabilities or equipment to handle something this massive without some augmentation, and that’s where we came in.”
“This is not the way I wanted to visit home, but I’m just glad I could be here to help,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Alan Goldenshteyn, a water support technician with the 8th ESB and a New York City native. “Thirty-one years I have been in New York City and I have never seen a major storm affect the city at all. And now to see it like this is, you know…it gets you inside.”
In addition to Veterans Day, this weekend also marks the 237th year since the establishment of the United States Marine Corps – an occasion Marines affectionately refer to as the Marine Corps birthday. Eighth ESB spent all day yesterday focused on the relief effort, but they did make time to acknowledge their heritage.
“We bought a cake,” said Clarkson. “One of the gunnies figured out a place out in town where we got a Marine Corps birthday cake and the volunteer fire department hosted us for a cake-cutting ceremony.”
“Celebrating the Marine Corps birthday was kind of good because we were actually here helping people,” said Goldenshteyn. “And to do it with a community that is so tight-knit…everybody wanted to get involved.”
“Our Marines are super motivated to be here,” said Clarkson. “They’ve been working their tails off and I’m extremely proud of the work they’ve been doing. They’ve been representing our unit and the service very well.”