MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY --
The buzz of chainsaws could be heard throughout neighborhoods in Albany, Georgia, as Marines assisted their off-base neighbors with tree and debris removal, Jan. 6-8.
Severe storms had swept through the city of Albany and surrounding counties causing power outages and knocking down numerous trees, Jan. 2.
2nd Lt. Delaney T. Bourlakov, adjutant, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, decided to put together a team of Marine volunteers after talking to friend who was affected by the storm.
“We just wanted to go out (and help) whoever needed us,” Bourlakov said. “We had a group of Marines that were willing and wanted to work all day.”
She recalled working in a yard on the Eastside of Albany.
“There was a small house with the backyard filled with berry trees that had fallen,” Bourlakov said. “It was one of those that looked worse than what it was. The trees weren’t too heavy to cut down so we were able to chop them up and move them out of the way fairly quickly.”
When they had finished, the Marines had stacked a large pile of debris between two houses, ready to be picked up by the city.
One of the residents came out and was crying, absolutely overwhelmed, Bourlakov said.
“I woke up this morning crying out to God saying I had no idea what I am going to do because I don’t have any money to take care of this,” the homeowner said, according to Bourlakov. “I don’t have the strength or a chainsaw to go out there and cut it down my self. Then I was blessed with people who, out of the kindness of their heart, wanted to help.”
Neighbor after neighbor asked the Marines for help. That day, the team made their way down the street cleaning up three more properties, all based on the residents seeing the Marines were willing to lend a hand.
As the Marines went house to house clearing debris, it gave them an opportunity to talk to the residents.
“Some of the senior adults we met did not have a lot of trees or debris in their yard, but we knew they were not able to clear their yard anytime soon so we decided to do it for them,” she said. “We witnessed them go from being overwhelmed to being overjoyed after what apparently seems to be a rocky start to 2017.”
At another house, the Marines came across a very large pine tree that had crushed a small pickup truck.
While assessing the situation, the homeowner expressed his gratitude and said, “whatever you can do to help, that’s all I ask.”
“That was when the Marines looked at the tree and the truck and said to each other why not,” Bourlakov said.
“It’s a big tree but we can do this,” they said. “We got eight of us here and a couple more on the way.”
Cpl. Kane Keaton, admin clerk, Military Personnel, MCLB Albany, was one of two Marines who used chainsaws to cut up the large tree.
“Not everybody has access (or) the manpower to move a 3,000-pound tree off (of a) truck,” Keaton said. “But with several Marines, two chainsaws and a truck, anything is possible.
“We are Marines and this is what we do,” he said. “We did it because we wanted to give back to the community. When the person to your left or right is down, you just can’t sit there and watch them, (you have to do something.)”
Removing the tree off the truck was the moment the Marines realized there was no obstacle they could not overcome.
“It was that moment that everyone was like we are all in,” Bourlakov said. “Whatever site we showed up to, no matter how big or small the task, we went in with 100 percent. We moved trees and debris in a quick amount of time and we had a good time doing it.”
While they worked, members of the Albany community and surrounding areas which were not affected by the storm, delivered food and water.
“Seeing the Albany residents respond the way they did was awesome,” she said. “You really saw the community come together and the Marines recognized that.”
Bourlakov explained how it made her feel seeing the community come together.
“It was one of those big picture moments when you realize that you can make a difference when you try,” she said. “That’s something I saw really come to light throughout the day. The Marines got involved and brought with them lots of energy; taking on obstacles that were a big deal to many.
“When the residents found out that we were in Marines, many said we support you guys and thank you for all that you do,” she continued. “Thanks for serving our country and thanks for being willing to come out and help us.
“It was definitely one of those moments where I was proud to be a Marine and proud we wanted to come together as a section spending our day helping others,” she said.