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Brian A. Russell

Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class Brian Russell

Nov. 6, 2012 - 06:38PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 6, 2012 - 06:38PM  |  
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My time in the service altered my outlook on life Jan. 12, 2010. I was underway onboard the carrier Carl Vinson making the three-month cruise from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego for the ship's homeport change. Our trip consisted of going around South America to reach our destination. We stopped in Mayport, Fla., to pick up some personnel and some extra stores for the short deployment. That's when we received the devastating news of the massive magnitude-7.3 earthquake off the coast of Haiti. Carl Vinson left Florida and headed straight for Port-Au-Prince for humanitarian assistance.

When we arrived, I didn't know what to expect. I went up on the flight deck for the morning's FOD walk down and was frozen in place at what was before my eyes. The once beautiful waters of the Caribbean were covered in trash and debris. Then I saw something that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. A body floated past the ship. That's when reality hit me and I felt that we really needed to help these people. And the crew of the USS Carl Vinson did just that. For two weeks we airlifted some 14,000 ready-to-eat meals and 3,300 gallons of water to Port-Au-Prince. The airport was so congested that they were unable to get aid to the people quick enough. We converted our hangar bay into a hospital and flew the seriously injured people onto the ship to provide medical treatment. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Just to see people who have just experienced that kind of chaos be so thankful that we were there to help them made me so proud of my country. A Haitian woman was in labor on the ship and gave birth to a new baby boy. She was so thankful; she named her son Carl Vinson. I will never forget that.

After the hospital ship Mercy arrived to take over operations, we continued on our voyage around South America. I sat in my berthing that evening after we departed and was deep in thought. I wanted to do more, but we needed to continue on with our mission. This event changed my life. It gave me a purpose. And that purpose was to continue helping people in need. Once my time in the Navy is up, I will pursue a career in medicine and continue helping people as long as I can. I owe this to my country. I'm so honored to be in the greatest military in the world. And my country has my unconditional love until the day I die.

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