With the exception of a quick trip back home to celebrate Christmas, Army veteran Jason Maddy has spent the last four months helping distribute much-needed supplies to people in remote parts of Puerto Rico hardest hit by Hurricane Maria.
“They are Americans,” he told NBC News. “They deserve help, they deserve support, and they deserve not to be forgotten.” Maddy, who served in the Army from 2000 to 2015, came to Puerto Rico not long after Hurricane Maria hit last September, wanting to help in any way possible. He began by getting supplies to people in rural areas of western Puerto Rico, and not long after arriving he launched the nonprofit Veteran Disaster Relief. “They say in the Army that you never leave a soldier behind and we can’t leave these Americans behind,” he said.
Maddy has since been joined by several other volunteers, including an Air Force veteran from San Antonio and a Cleveland police officer using her vacation time to participate. They are bringing food, water filters, and medical supplies to people who still don’t have electricity and are living in structures not considered habitable; recently, Maddy installed a generator for a 70-year-old bedridden man who clapped when he finally felt his fan kick back on. “You just feel a joy in your heart that you potentially save their life, or at least improved it,” he told NBC News. “And to be a part of that is incredible. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”