Monday, December 25, 2017

Sailor Went From Submarine to KIA Saving Lives--On Vacation

Submariner stranded in Puerto Rico delivered critical aid in his mom's sedan

The Virginia Pilot
Brock Vergakis
December 25, 2017
While the Navy sent helicopters, ships and doctors from Hampton Roads to help, Rivera was simply on vacation. He managed to get to an Army Reserve Center base, secured orders to temporarily join a military police battalion there, then was given an incredible autonomy to help in a way few others could – all without ever wearing a uniform.

Joel Rivera, right, shown here in a photo from 2011, aboard a submarine during a submarine rescue exercise as part of Bold Monarch 2011.RICARDO J. REYES/U.S. NAVY PHOTO 
NORFOLK — Joel Rivera rumbled down dirt roads in his mother’s Kia Forte weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico – on a mission for the U.S. military that he never imagined when he joined the Navy 14 years ago as a submariner.
Dressed in civilian clothing, Rivera and his cousin drove through mountains searching for islanders needing food and water who were out of reach because large trucks couldn’t use debris-filled and washed-out roads. He’d drop off what little provisions he could carry in the four-door sedan and – whenever he could get a cell phone signal – report to military officials on the island about the hardest-hit areas.
“I’d really just pick a spot on a map that was secluded,” he said. “At this point the government was handing out food and water to the cities.
“I wanted to take care of the places where they were overlooking.” 
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