USS Bataan, Operation Blessing Treat Haiti Victims

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The U.S. Navy is rushing relief supplies to Haiti and providing medical assistance for quake victims on board its ships. They are also also transporting vital help from Operation Blessing.

As the men of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit went ashore in Haiti to assist with relief and recovery, the sailors on the USS Bataan have stayed busy keeping the pipeline of aid flowing into the country.

When the Marines find someone in need of urgent medical care, they can be given a short helicopter ride to the Baatan's fully-stocked hospital for treatment.

The medical staff aboard the ship has been working overtime for the past few days, caring for dozens of locals injured in the earthquake.

Joaquin Jason, a Creole-speaking Marine, is a volunteer for this mission.

"The first thing I tell them is, 'Hey, do you know you're on a boat,'" Jason said. "And they are shocked and surprised to hear that they are on a boat. One patient told me it's the grace of God that we came down that sent us down here to help."

A miracle baby named Wilson was rescued by the men of the Bataan. When they first found him, he was so sick that they did not think he was going to survive. But he is doing quite a bit better now.

"In fact, when I grabbed little Wilson, he was lifeless," a Marine said. "In fact, nightfall had came upon us and I wasn't even sure if he was breathing. So, I was calling for flashlights. He was really dehydrated. He hadn't eaten in seven days. Malnourished. Probably the water they were drinking wasn't good. We don't trust any water other source right now. It's all contaminated. But they survived on what they had to survive with."

Clean water has always been a challenge, but it is even more critical now that the country's infrastructure has been all but wiped out.

While little Wilson was recuperating in the Bataan's sick bay, another ship arrived from Newport News, Virginia. It pulled along side and began transferring even more relief supplies into her cargo hold.

The "replenishment at sea is where where helicopters pick up each pallet and moving them from one ship to the other. Among them are ten large water filtration units supplied by Operation Blessing.

"These units were purchased by Operation Blessing specifically for the people of Haiti," a staff member said. "These particular units produce 10,000 gallons of potable or drinking water, fresh water each day."

In addition to the water filters, Operation Blessing supplied more than 200 pallets of baby food and bottled water so that hopefully the other "Wilsons" out there can have the food and drinking water they need without having to take a helicopter ride.

*Originally published January 25, 2010.

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