This Week at War on Coronavirus: Out of the Darkness

Tom Sileo's weekly look at how the military is battling COVID-19 and how the war is affecting U.S. troops and military families around the world.

A U.S. Air Force airman practices outside air safety check procedures while wearing a cloth mask to mitigate the transmission of coronavirus at the Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on April 7, 2020.

By Tom Sileo Published on April 9, 2020

Sixteen years ago, U.S. troops were at war in places like Fallujah and Ramadi. Today, our nation’s brave men and women in uniform are fighting a new enemy: COVID-19, or coronavirus.

According to Thursday morning’s Pentagon statistics, pictured below, there are nearly 1,900 coronavirus cases inside the U.S. military. Including family members, civilian Department of Defense workers and contractors, the number is approaching 3,000.

New Jersey National Guard Capt. Douglas Hickok, who passed away last month, remains the only U.S. service member to die of coronavirus. Sadly, Fox News reported Thursday that an infected U.S. Navy sailor aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been moved to intensive care after being “found unresponsive while in isolation.”

Pentagon Coronavirus 4/9/20

Fox also reported that 416 sailors on the ship have tested positive for coronavirus. The aircraft carrier, which has been the subject of controversy due to the publication of a letter written by its former captain, is one of four experiencing outbreaks. Crew members aboard the USS Nimitz, USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan have also tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Navy Times.

As a top general warns of more infections on U.S. Navy ships around the world, please join The Stream in praying for these brave sailors and their loved ones. We wish all of those infected – especially the USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor fighting for his or her life – speedy and full recoveries.

CALL TO ACTION:

COVID-19 is causing massive disruptions in life. The Stream’s parent organization, LIFE Outreach International is helping send a first wave of help.

LIFE’s local Mission Partners are already distributing thousands of surgical masks, gloves and other sanitary supplies to first responders, hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, other partners have focused on distributing as many meals as possible to help those who need food.

You can help with these efforts. Click here to donate.

While expressing our eternal gratitude to the thousands of U.S. troops serving around the world, including the brave airman pictured above, I thought this would be an ideal week to focus on the extraordinary sacrifices also being made by service members deployed right here inside the United States. As of Thursday, nearly 30,000 National Guard troops had been specifically mobilized to fight COVID-19.

In Michigan, troops are making sure food is distributed to those in need across the state.

In Georgia, National Guard soldiers who specialize in controlling infections are working around the clock to stop the spread of the virus.

Across the country in Oregon, soldiers are busy making masks and face shields for their fellow National Guard troops, which in turn enables federal officials to distribute more masks to doctors and nurses saving lives in hospitals around the country.

In California, National Guard troops were busy supervising the distribution of badly needed ventilators to Illinois, New York and New Jersey.

In the Garden State, National Guard troops have taken on a new responsibility amid their many coronavirus-related duties: protecting nursing homes. They are focused on two northern New Jersey senior living facilities that are currently dealing with deadly COVID-19 outbreaks. Please pray for those infected and the selfless soldiers who are helping them.

In New York, 61 patients were being treated aboard the USNS Comfort as of Thursday morning. One of the American heroes helping the sick aboard that ship is U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Alexandria Agudelo, who eloquently shared her thoughts about what it means to be part of this historic mission.

We are so grateful to Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Agudelo and her shipmates. In addition to the Comfort, 134 patients were being treated at the Javits Center in Manhattan, which U.S. troops quickly converted into a hospital. Members of the National Guard are also supervising checkpoints and COVID-19 testing sites across the hard-hit Empire State.

Coronavirus Test Site

Members of the New York National Guard assist with traffic control at a COVID-19 drive-thru test site in Albany, New York, on April 6, 2020.

New York National Guard teams have also been tasked with removing bodies from buildings in New York City, which continues to be devastated by the disease. Aside from the physical risks, the emotional toll this grim responsibility must be having on these soldiers is difficult to fathom. Please pray for these soldiers, as well as all coronavirus victims and their families.

“I would tell you that as military planners, as part of the National Guard, we plan and prepare for whatever kind of worst-case scenarios we can think of,” New York National Guard Col. Richard Goldenberg, who also served at Ground Zero after 9/11, told i24 News this week. “But actually putting those plans into effect for something like this pandemic, it really does take your breath away.”

To anyone who might question whether the COVID-19 fight is really a military-style war, I give you not only this colonel’s powerful words, but every story, statistic and photo featured in this article. Each soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman and Marine you see is willing to fight to his or her last breath to save the lives of others.

During this Holy Week, the first thing we should do every morning is thank God for these American heroes and pray for their safety. Along with our nation’s nurses, doctors, first responders, delivery drivers and millions of other essential workers, their courage is leading the United States of America out of the darkness.

 

Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of 8 Seconds of CourageBrothers ForeverFire in My Eyes and the forthcoming Three Wise Men. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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