Even the day before Katrina, the 186th Air National Guard Unit was being called to activation. Since the storm members have been providing communications and medical services along the coast, security services where needed, and distributing ice and water as far south as George, Green and Perry Counties, it's a contribution that makes wing commander Col. Erik Hearon proud of his unit.
"It's so rewarding to see them out there, and at the end of a day when they come home from distributing this ice and water, their own home is damaged," said Col. Erik Hearon, commanding officer of the 186th Air Refueling Wing. "But they come back and you can see it in their faces how much they appreciate being able to help their fellow Mississippians."
And now preparations are being made to provide yet another service to the refugees from Katrina. A federal medical shelter has been established in one of the hangers at Key Field in Meridian. Officials are expecting as many as 750 patients from throughout Mississippi and possibly even from Louisiana.
"Given the largeness of this situation, the magnitude of the hurricane, the normal medical infrastructure has been damaged and we needed to move these folks to a special facility," said Capt. Aubrey Miller of the
U.S. Public Health Service.
Patients expected at the medical shelter will not be in need of major medical care, but are in need of some sort of assistance.
"To give the patients a place, a place that they can come, be taken care of, have their medical needs met. Hopefully, make their families at ease that they're being given proper treatment, being cared for and then hopefully a place that they can move from back into the communities, back to home and to loved ones," Miller said.
Col. Hearon and Capt. Miller say they are expecting to receive patients at the federal medical shelter in Meridian as early as Tuesday.