Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(AW/NAC) Mike D. Stevens visited Oklahoma and Tinker Air Force Base June 3 to talk with service members, comfort families, and offer reassurance that Navy leadership stands ready to assist with recovery from severe weather and deadly tornadoes that devastated the area last week.
“You hear about the horrific damage on the news but I needed to see it for myself,”
said Stevens. MCPON said he planned to provide feedback from the Oklahoma Sailors to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) when he returned to Washington, D.C.
The visit comes on the heels of two weeks of severe weather plaguing the area, which started on May 20 with a category EF5 tornado. Stevens offered moral support and a listening ear to the survivors of the horrific tornado that killed 24 people, including 10 children.
After landing at Oklahoma City’s airport, Stevens rode past lawns scattered with debris, viewing devastation so great that it seemed as if garbage had literally fallen from the sky.
His first stop was at Aviation Structural Mechanic First Class Scott Dansby and his wife, Gennifer’s home. He walked stoically around their neighborhood full of utter devastation with debris piles. He said the damage was hard to comprehend.
“It is unbelievable how one side of the street can be seemingly untouched and the other side of the street is just gone,” said Stevens.
The Dansby’s huddled their family and a dozen other people into a five-foot by five-foot tornado shelter next to their house during the May 20 tornado.
“We took a big hit from the first tornado but lost just about everything when the weather hit again last Friday,” said Dansby. “We remain thankful no one was hurt. We are all here and that’s what matters most.”
MCPON was reminded that even in this terrible tragedy there are Sailors who kept their spirits high.
“These Sailors exhibit all the things we ask of each other. They continue to help and support one another, and focus on what they can control.” “This is a strong community with strong character,” said Stevens.
Yeoman Third Class Travis Martin was in the right place at the right time for one couple last Friday.
“I pulled a husband and wife from an overturned vehicle after the storm hit,” said Martin. “It’s always an honor to serve and I’m thankful they are doing well.”
“Petty Officer Martin exhibited all the things our Sailors stand for,” said Stevens. “He saw a situation where he could assist and he made it his duty to offer aid.”
Following the tour MCPON spoke to approximately 300 Sailors and a half-dozen family members during an all hands call at Tinker Air Force Base.
“From everything I have seen there’s been some enormous damage but by in large you have your health, you have your families, and you continue to focus on what you can control.” “Everyone here continues to show the strength of the human spirit during adversity and I’m so very proud of you, “said Stevens.
MCPON concluded the trip by reminding everyone that the country has Oklahoma on their minds and in their hearts.
“I was at church on Sunday and we took a collection for Oklahoma tornado victims and survivors, everyone gave something,” said Stevens. “I believe that is what is going on across the country and that is what makes our country great, we take care of our people.”
Press Release, June 5, 2013; Image: US Navy