Not even the nation’s largest military installations are safe from a hurricane.
Fort Bragg, the most populous post in the nation and possibly in the world, and Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast, were both in the path of Hurricane Florence.
Fort Bragg suffered little more than sporadic power outages and a few downed trees, but the larger military community — the true Fort Bragg — was walloped by a storm that churned over the state for several days, dropping huge amounts of rain.
The vast majority of Fort Bragg troops live off post. And that’s where Florence hit hardest.
From Spring Lake to Lumberton and Elizabethtown, homes and businesses were flooded, thousands of roads were closed and many rivers and streams overflowed their banks.
North Carolina is home to a considerable portion of the nation’s military. Fort Bragg alone is home to a little more than one-tenth of the Army.
Those troops, and many of the 10,000-plus soldiers and airmen of the North Carolina National Guard, were directly in the path of Florence.
But that works both ways.
The service members were in the storm’s path, but that also means they were already there to help.
More than 3,000 National Guard soldiers were involved in relief efforts. And hundreds of Fort Bragg soldiers joined them, eventually joined by troops from outside the state, too.
As of Wednesday, they had rescued more than 400 people and more than 40 animals from floodwaters and delivered thousands of meals.
And that’s not counting the uncountable — hundreds, if not thousands, of local troops who responded to the storm out of uniform by helping their friends and neighbors. They helped with hasty repairs, opened their homes to the displaced and assisted in the rescue of the stranded.
Florence was an undeniable disaster. But it also was eye opening.
For the past week, much of the country has been looking at what is going on in North and South Carolina. And to those paying attention, they saw communities coming together to help their own.
Service members, wearing civilian clothes and the familiar camouflage patterns, played important roles in that aid.
And that role won’t diminish in the months ahead, as communities pick up the pieces strewn about by Florence.
At times, officials have described Fort Bragg as the nation’s largest gated community. But that’s not true. Florence proves that. Because the Fort Bragg community, just like any military community, extends far beyond the post gates.
© 2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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