Parent groups reach out to cadets from hurricane-struck Gulf Coast

Hurricane Harvey

U.S. National Guardsmen assist families on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Harvey struck the region earlier this month. (U.S. Army photo)


When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, the North Texas Parent Club “got mobilized” and organized a dinner Sept. 1 at a Colorado Springs restaurant for cadets from the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Harvey, the largest rainstorm in the history of the continental U.S. according to some meteorologists, began pounding the region Aug. 26. It’s since been downgraded to a Tropical storm, but heavy rainfall again drubbed Texas and parts of Louisiana Aug. 30.

In all, 113 cadets at the Air Force Academy and six cadet candidates at the Prep School hail from the area.

“Families and parents of cadets will meet these cadets at 4:30 p.m., Sept. 1, outside the Cadet Chapel and drive them to Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q,” said Marie Nikovits, the Academy’s parent’s liaison. “We’re hoping parents open their homes to host cadets who can’t see their loved ones during Parents' Weekend.”

Parents' Weekend, Sept. 1-3, is the Academy’s most popular event for cadets and their families, second only to graduation, Nikovits said.

“Our parent groups recognize there’s a lot of cadets whose parents and relatives in the Gulf Coast region are at best, unable to travel to Colorado to see them and at worst, dealing with the after effects of this hurricane,” she said.

Nikovits said parent clubs outside Texas and parents attending Parents Weekend are welcome to participate.

“They’re part of our team and judging from the phone calls, they’re really eager to help these cadets and families,” she said. “For our freshmen cadets, Parents' Weekend is the first real chance they get to see their families in months.”

Maj. Walter McMillen, air operations commander for Cadet Squadron 22 and project officer for Parents' Weekend, said there’s been a “huge rallying cry” from cadets in his squadron for Cadet 2nd Class Ashley Cameron, who calls the Gulf Region home.

“Her parents won’t be here during Parents' Weekend and the other cadets in the squadron have reached out and invited her to spend time with their families,” he said. “Having your family here during the first relaxing weekend for many cadets is very special. They want to express their pride, especially the freshman cadets who just graduated basic training.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sheltering more than 30,000 people in 230 shelters in Texas and more than 195,000 people have registered for federal assistance, said FEMA administrator William Long during a news briefing. Brock said he expects that number to go up.

Harvey is responsible for at least 22 deaths at the time of this report.

“The more parents ‘adopt’ cadets from the Gulf Region or volunteer to drive them to dinner, the better,” Nikovits said.

Volunteer drivers can call 817-832-0123 or 817-235-3790 to reach a North Texas Parents Club member and drive cadets to the restaurant. Parents and cadet sponsors may volunteer during the dinner to host a cadet during Parents' Weekend.