Brevard County veterans step up during crisis


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As the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, medical personnel in some areas are facing shortages of personal protective equipment.

Military veterans in Brevard County have stepped in to help some of the area’s first responders by providing them with face masks, paper gowns and paper booties to help protect paramedics and firefighters as they respond to suspected coronavirus cases.

Veterans of Foreign Wars District 8 and the Brevard Veterans Council delivered supplies to first responders and hospitals such as Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach and Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

While others have pitched in to help wherever they can as the fight against the virus ramps up, I knew veterans would step in as they always do. I imagine that this is just one way that one group of veterans is taking on part of the struggle. Others also are doing their part.

VFW District 8, a part of the Department of Florida, along with the Brevard Veterans Council,  also provided 2,500 masks, 1,000 gowns and a box of paper booties, said Don Pearsall, the director of VFW Disaster Response and Recovery who also serves as chairman of the Brevard Veterans Council.

“I wanted to be sure first responders were taken care of,” he said. “Normally, whatever anybody needs I get it to them.”

Pearsall said the group contacted different fire stations and asked if they needed any of the items and distributed accordingly.

The stash of supplies are part of the District 8 Disaster Response and Recovery stockpiled to respond in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornados or other disasters.

VFW Florida Department Commander Tony Purdy embraced the idea of the emergency response team when Pearsall presented it to him.

The organization has tents, generators, Meal Ready to Eat (MRE), blankets, cots, sleeping bags, tarps and dozens of other items to help a community recover after a disaster.

“A lot of it comes from the Florida Department of Emergency Management, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Red Cross,” said Pearsall, a Vietnam veteran who also is the director of Veterans Connections to a New Life.

The group distributed thousands of MREs in the past two years, responded with supplies to the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael and made several trips with supplies to the Bahamas, following Hurricane Dorian last year.

Pearsall and Bob Doyle, deputy director of the relief team, are in the process of building disaster relief training programs for 14 other states in the southeastern United States.