Video by Allyson Morin
Article by Matt Benedetti
Photos Courtesy of VFW Post 754 Post Commander Gamalier Rosa
In the fall of 2017, as the scale and scope of the damage from Hurricane Maria became apparent to Jose Santos-Alvarez, the Senior Vice Commander of VFW Post 12064. He knew his community of Ponce and the entire island of Puerto Rico was in dire need of substantial assistance.
An Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a VFW member since 1967, he mobilized his post and reached out to his brothers and sisters in the VFW across the United States.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, if you need help, we’re going to help,” said Santos-Alvarez.
According to Eric Segundo, State Commander of the VFW in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico has more veterans per capita than any other state.
“When disaster struck Texas and Florida we responded quickly to answer the call from our comrades in need. Supporting Puerto Rico was especially more personal for me as many of my family, friends and fellow veterans I served with were in much need,” said Segundo.
While others dithered, the VFW–who have a long-standing commitment to supporting veterans, servicemembers and their families in the wake of natural disasters–responded.
A few weeks later, VFW Post Commander 754 Gamalier Rosa departed western Massachusetts to Puerto Rico to assist with relief operations.
“I established contact with VFW Post 12064 and we organized multiple water and food distributions to veterans and their dependents who came into their office to apply for the VFW Unmet Needs Program Disaster Grant,” said Rosa.
During his approximately 3 month deployment, Rosa was able to render assistance in myriad ways including the purchase of much-needed generators through the VFW Unmet Needs Grant Program.
“Words couldn’t explain how appreciative we are of his service to the Veterans of Foreign Wars but to the people of Puerto Rico,” said Segundo.
Working closely with members of VFW Post 12064, they assisted with myriad tasks including debris removal, locating temporary housing for displaced veterans, distribution of water and food and several other related administrative tasks.
“Some veterans lost their homes and we worked day and night to try to help in any way,” said Santos. We worked together with to help the people of Puerto Rico and we are grateful to Gam the VFW for their help,” said Santos.
Segundo echoed this statement.
“We are one family and no matter where the disaster happens, we are here for our veterans,” Segundo said.
Santos was grateful for the support offered by the national VFW and the contributions of Massachusetts specifically.
“Today in Puerto Rico, the reputation of the VFW is very high and people understand how much our organization helped,” said Santos. “We did with our hearts and the help of the VFW.”