DURANT, Okla. – A group of Native American tribal police officers left their homes and headed to Puerto Rico to help hurricane victims.
After Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in September, the island was devastated with flooding and strong winds.
Most of the island was left without basic services such as power and running water. Hospitals throughout the cash-strapped island of 3.4 million people were running low on medicine and fuel.
So far, the official death toll stands at 64 but the island’s governor is asking for an official review to determine if more deaths are associated with the storm.
On Oct. 5, the Ryder Hospital in Humacau, Puerto Rico lost power for the third time.
Immediately, Quick Response Team Four, which is made up of tribal public safety officers and Bureau of Indian Affairs agents, responded to the area.
Among the 14 people on the team, four were Choctaw Nation Tribal Police Officers.
The officers boarded a flight to Puerto Rico and arrived to find total devastation.
“It changed the color of the ocean. You could see where the blue met the brown of the mudslides,” said Larry Masters, one of the officers.
“It blew every leaf off the trees,” Marvin Jefferson, another officer, added.
The team was sent to Puerto Rico to provide security and offer their services to those in need.
When the hospital went dark, the Choctaw officers escorted military vehicles to safe hospitals and helped land helicopters that were used to rescue the most critical patients.
“There was no radio, the cell towers were down and it took an hour to drive to the hospital from where we were,” Andy Kenyon, a Choctaw officer, said.
Throughout their time on the island, the group says they worked tirelessly.
“We worked for 24 hours straight some days, and I can’t remember a day we didn’t work at least 16 to 18 hours,” Masters said.
However, they say their hard work was worth it.
“The Puerto Rican people were very gracious. They kept thanking us for being there,” said Zachary Hendrix, the fourth Choctaw officer.
Recently, OG&E just sent its second crew to the island nation to help restore power.