SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico —
A year ago today, Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and devastation throughout the country. After the storm, more than 11,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines from units around the United States mobilized to help the American territory.
Many members of the Puerto Rico National Guard’s 783rd Support Maintenance Company began recovery efforts just one day after the storm, and others joined shortly after. Their initial mission was to inspect the facilities of their armory, but local firefighters in the Toa Baja community alerted them about civilians in need of rescue.
The size of the unit’s military trucks enabled them to rescue people and transport them through the flooding water and mud as high as 8 feet in pitch-black darkness while it was still raining. Many of these soldiers left their families behind and didn’t have communication with them for weeks. Their focus was ensuring their rescue mission was complete.
Army Staff Sgt. Indira Duprey was in charge of some of the rescue missions. “The way Puerto Rico is structured, there are a lot of rural areas,” Duprey said. “They lost communication, power and even water sources.”
Duprey and others in her unit worked 15- to 16-hour days for weeks on these rescue missions. At times, they said, they forgot…