This Week at War on Coronavirus: Working Together

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.

U.S. Navy sailors assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt who have tested negative twice for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic arrive pierside and prepare to return to the ship following completion of their off-ship quarantine on April 30, 2020, in Santa Rita, Guam.

By Tom Sileo Published on May 1, 2020

For all the partisanship and division we see each day on cable news, there is unity and sacrifice across America. The hard work of our brave men and women in uniform is the focus of The Stream‘s weekly look at our military’s war on coronavirus.

Wednesday evening in hard-hit New York, National Guard troops were not only working to help the hungry and sick, but pausing to honor doctors, nurses and first responders. Moments like the one captured below should define America’s response to COVID-19, not politicians and pundits exploiting a pandemic for political gain.

With more than 45,000 National Guard troops on duty across the nation, their selfless patriotism is not only inspiring, but keeping us healthy and safe. In Florida, troops are running coronavirus test sites and helping translate for doctors and nurses treating non-English speaking citizens.

In Kentucky, soldiers are helping feed the hungry.

https://twitter.com/kentuckyguard/status/1255225046303412224?s=20

In New Mexico, troops are building and staffing makeshift coronavirus hospitals.

In Hawaii, airmen are delivering masks and other key supplies to hospitals.

In Colorado, soldiers are caring for the homeless.

America is not about arguing with each other. It’s about freedom, faith and defending the defenseless. Those ideals are being reinforced every day by the heroes of our country’s Armed Forces.

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The brilliant work being performed by soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen often results in anxiety and stress. From being apart from their families to painful assignments like bringing out the dead, service members are seeing the tragic toll of this crisis up close.

Military chaplains play a crucial role in helping our troops and their families manage these emotional hardships. Like we’ve seen during the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these men and women of faith are always there for their fellow service members.

“We have learned very quickly that a pandemic like this engenders a high degree of uncertainty and stress,” New York National Guard Col. Rob Mitchell said this week. “The chaplains and behavioral health teams are having a notable impact in reducing stress and anxiety in the ranks as well as meeting the ministerial needs at mission sites.”

One of those hard-working chaplains is Army National Guard Lt. Col. Scott Ehler.

“The ministry teams are on the ground with our service members providing daily support. Even though we must socially distance ourselves, we are ensuring our service members don’t isolate,” Lt. Col. Ehler said. “We are desperately trying to remain spiritually connected and located to the front lines of duty.”

Another way the military is helping lift the spirits of its ranks is by giving stressed out service members some time with service dogs. I have personally witnessed the positive impact these special animals have on our troops and veterans, as wounded U.S. Navy veteran Brad Snyder explained in our 2016 book, Fire in My Eyes. The service dogs are making a huge difference for those on the front lines.

“The amount of stress that the military and medical personnel serving in New York City are going through is extraordinary,” Puppies Behind Bars program coordinator Gloria Gilbert Stoga said this week. “The fact that our dogs can provide some comfort makes me prouder than I think I have ever been of them.”

Few service members have been through more over the past six weeks than the command and crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. As pictured above, sailors are now returning to the Guam-docked aircraft carrier after completing 14-day quarantines. Nearly 1,000 sailors aboard the ship have tested positive for coronavirus, including 41-year-old U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker, who passed away last month.

As of Wednesday, 4,359 American service members had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Military Times.  As we pray for those infected and their families, the good news is that “the Defense Department’s rate of new COVID-19 cases has slowed to its lowest pace since the beginning of the month,” the website reports. Perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel.

As the men and women of our military continue to serve and sacrifice, the best things we can do are to pray for them and show support like a wonderful group of South Florida children did this week. They decorated medals to thank National Guard troops, doctors and nurses.

In New York, New Jersey and all over the East Coast, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force fighter pilots also took to the skies to show America’s gratitude for health care workers. As much of the national media and political establishment tries to further divide America, patriotic tributes like these show that no matter what, they will never tear us apart.

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.

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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