Blain Roberson, a UCF health sciences student, was recently called into duty by the National Guard to assist in emergency response efforts in Panama City and Lynn Haven following the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Michael.
Roberson’s unit, Bravo Company 2nd Battalion 124th Infantry Regiment, comprises people from all walks of life and who work in all different industries. Roberson said his unit ranges in age from 18 to 50.
“Though we are all extremely different, we all share the drive to help others,” Roberson said, who spent more than a week helping residents.
For the first three days, Roberson and his unit conducted route clearing, cutting trees off the roads and out of people’s driveways to allow them a way to travel. Then, Roberson said, the platoon was assigned to a “point of distribution” for food and water. They also assisted with security with the Lynn Haven Police Department. Roberson, who came from Live Oak, said he has seen damage caused by hurricanes before, “but this one was by far the worst I have witnessed firsthand.”
The catastrophic damage to the homes and businesses in Panama City was shocking and sad, Roberson said, but there were bright spots: “The most incredible thing I saw was the community coming together and helping one another get through the disaster.”
Humberto López Castillo, assistant professor in the College of Health Professions and Sciences, said he was surprised when Roberson, a dedicated student who never missed class, did not show up one day.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, he just took off,” López Castillo said. “A couple hours later, he sent an email explaining he needed to report immediately for duty and help respond. As a public health professional myself, I understand that every single person’s contribution goes a long way during an emergency response. I am incredibly proud of the work that the National Guard does, and I am humbled to have one of their heroes sitting in my class.”