Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letter from the U.S.S. Mustin off Northern Japan

U.S.S. Mustin
This letter from a Navy officer on the U.S.S. Mustin was passed along by a member of St. Paul's, and is worth reading. The name of the author has been removed to protect privacy. Please keep the people of Japan in your prayers, and all those who are working around the clock to relieve suffering, and those in our Navy who are part of this humanitarian effort.

Dear friends and family,

We are now operating off the coast of Northern Japan amidst a tremendous amount of floating debris and derelict fishing vessels. The feeling I get is one of both tragedy and hope. The place is like a floating graveyard. Pieces of people’s lives just wash by our ship. Meanwhile, those still alive ashore are fighting lack of supplies and cold weather. This morning it was snowing. Through our efforts, we are able to help many people that would otherwise be trapped and isolated from ordinary rescue efforts due to the lack of accessible roads and railways. Our helos are operating constantly to provide food, water, clothing, and blankets to people ashore. We are patrolling to identify the abandoned boats, cargo, and various other bits of debris. It’s amazing to see how MUSTIN has come together to do whatever we can to help. We are running clothing drives and asking people to donate money and the results are phenomenal. Every helo that takes off is loaded with more supplies. If only we had known before we left homeport, we could have brought more. I just went through my closet and gave away all my sweatshirts and sweatpants, extra towels, socks, t-shirts, and even my Severn blanket from high school. The ship is giving away as much supplies as we can afford.

The radiation hazard is not as much of a concern as the media has stated, however we are taking the necessary precautions to avoid any exposure. They are being extremely careful about the location of our ships and where we transit. If the plants melt down, the risk obviously increases, but for now, we are in no danger.

This has definitely been a growing experience for me. When the quake happened, I was just leaving the ship on my way home. I sat in a few hours of traffic and came home to a city with no electricity, no running trains, and no communication because cell phones were down too. People were crowded in the streets and a Japanese woman was shouting something over a loudspeaker and I had no idea what was going on. It was a little scary at first, but I lit some candles and ate the food I had left in the fridge. I was later contacted and told I needed to get back to the ship, given time to get what I needed, and here I am. Our schedule is constantly changing, but for now we will continue to do what we can with the supplies we have.

Thank you to every one of you that has sent a note and told me that we are in your thoughts and prayers. As the days continue, I realize more and more how much your support means to me and to our mission. As the days continue and the count of the numbers of lives affected increases, it becomes more and more apparent how severe a event like this is and how much effort it’s going to take to recover.

I am in complete amazement. The number of recipients of this e-mail has grown exponentially, and I quite literally have received replies from people all over the world. I have shared your thoughts and prayers with my sailors and they appreciate the support as much as I do. I am writing to give a second update on the events off the coast of Sendai.

I stood watch this morning from 2-7 am, carefully maneuvering through the darkness so as not to hit half submerged cargo boxes and overturned boats. To add to the challenge, our visibility decreased from about 8 miles to less than one in a matter of minutes as we entered into a blizzard. And if that wasn’t enough, we still are remaining cautious of the radiation hazard a couple hundred miles away and feeling various aftershocks. In my Captain’s words, “You couldn’t write this stuff.” Every day has been an adventure.

Today our helo was vectored off to an isolated hospital with SOS showing on the rooftop. This hospital contained over 200 patients still alive and in desperate need of supplies. We delivered food, water, clothing, and blankets. The pilots are about to make a final run for the day right now and are calling for any last things we can bare to give up. I managed to grab another jacket from my closet and my old UGG boots. I figure I don’t need much more than coveralls and a pair of black boots to live on a ship.

A major concern for us out here on the water is the people we left behind. The Navy has around 25,000 people living in the Yokosuka area. As a preemptive measure, they have just begun voluntary evacuation of families from Japan due to the uncertainty of the nuclear plants and the potential for the winds to shift and spread radiation to the south. They also are feeling the many aftershocks from the initial earthquake, including a six that occurred just across Tokyo Bay from the base. For me, I only have to worry about the state of my household goods, for most of my sailors, they have a lot more on the line.

Please keep all of these people affected in your prayers, from those suffering from injury and loss, to those isolated, yet struggling to survive, and finally for the Sailors and their families who want to help, but must care for their own at the same time.

Many of you have asked how you can help and for now, I don’t have much information as we are only doing what we can from the ship. However, people from our ship are donating money to the American Red Cross who has been working with the Japanese Red Cross to tailor to their specific needs. I will try to find a point of contact in Japan that can provide more information on donations.

Again, thank you for your support, your prayers, your pictures, and the notes you have sent. I am very thankful to have such an awesome group of people to lift me up.


Janice Dean said...

Thank you for sharing this, and thanks to the person/people who gave permission for this to be shared. I have extended family outside Tokyo, and I have been able to get in contact one of them so far. They are safe, but life is still full of uncertainty. My communication with them, as well as this note, reminds me of how "small" and connected our large world is. I am grateful that, in addition to wars in Afghanistan and Irag, and a no-fly zone in Libya, our military can offer so much help to the people of Japan. I am so humbled by the report in this email of the soldiers giving away their personal belongings--WOW. If that doesn't tell me how to live a holy Lent, I don't know what does.

joseph Waldman said...

Thanks for the posting this and thanks to those who gave you such a good permission to post it here. I have my family in east japan i called them last night and they are safe :)