As the most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Sandy and its impact will not be soon forgotten. But while Sandy destroyed, Coast Guard families restored.
Coast Guard buildings and assets were significantly damaged in the storm and hundreds of Coast Guard members and their families experienced unprecedented damage in their homes and workplace.
The storm was no match for Coast Guard families, however. Their resiliency shines during times of need and post-Sandy was no exception. As families worked together to recover, they enabled a stronger Coast Guard.
“The strength and resilience of our family members on the home front provides critical support to our Coast Guard men and women. It allows them to successfully carry out critical operations every day ensuring the nation’s safety and security,” wrote Mrs. Linda Kapral Papp.
One person who could be counted on in the months of rebuilding after the storm was Casey Van Huysen. Van Huysen, a native of Mobile, Ala., is the ombudsman at Sector New York. Van Huysen worked with other military spouses after Hurricane Sandy hit to collect more than $235,000 worth of donations including food, clothing and toys. The spouses received and organized the generous amount of items donated to give to military families who were uprooted during the storm.
As an ombudsman, she provides support for New York and New Jersey Coast Guard families. True to the role of an ombudsman she also shares the necessary resources. Van Huysen organized a block party for families with the health, safety and work-life staff, enhancing the sense of community and providing valuable resource information.
“One of the most indispensable aspects of reaching out to an ombudsman is their valuable network of resources,” said Mrs. Papp. “When you talk to a unit ombudsman about a challenge your family is having, they can bridge your concerns to the command, or tap into community resources. When you reach out to one ombudsman you are reaching out to a network of hundreds of individuals who are standing by and ready to help.”
Van Huysen represents the value ombudsmen demonstrate at their units, and due to her extensive work she received the Wanda Allen-Yearout Ombudsman of the Year.
“It’s a complete honor to be Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year, I’m just very proud,” said Van Huysen. “Words can’t express how thankful and grateful I am to receive such an award.”
In addition to supporting her active duty spouse, caring for their two daughters and volunteering as the Sector New York ombudsman, Van Huysen remained active in local communities by serving as a member of Project Hospitality, a private, nonprofit organization providing support for individuals with significant needs. She also assisted children with autism and taught fitness classes for the sector’s morale, well-being and recreation program.
Van Huysen’s compassion, dedication to service and professional work ethic significantly enhanced the quality of life for the families at Sector New York and the local Staten Island community; by doing so, she greatly enhanced local readiness.
“In my mind, the health and welfare of our people and their families are at the heart of operational readiness,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp.
Whether helping out in the aftermath of a natural disaster, or providing day-to-day support, the Coast Guard is stronger due to volunteers like Van Huysen.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta Disco contributed to this article.