PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The sendoff is strong. The connection to the mission is even stronger.
For 21 days, four men from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office will be in Puerto Rico helping with disaster relief.
Inspector Michael Bastone, Sergeant Joshua Perez, and Deputy Sheriff Officers Alessandro Carrasquillo and Enrique Marin each have ties to Puerto Rico.
“Words cannot explain the devastation,” Bastone said.
From Philadelphia, they watched helplessly as Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and have still been unable to reach some family members there.
After seeing that footage, Bastone, the office’s highest ranking Hispanic deputy, went directly to Sheriff Jewell Williams, who immediately gave the green light to send a team.
“These deputies’ input can save a life,” Williams said, “and that’s what this is about.”
With no place to stay and essential services like water and electricity scarce at best, Bastone says they have no idea what to expect.
“It’s definitely going to be a hardship for all of us,” he said. “It’s something we’ve never experienced. But we’re going out there and we’re going to do the best we can for our people.”
All four men have commercial driver’s licenses and were told they will be running essential supplies to hard hit, hard to reach locations.
“There will be days without bathing. There will be days without eating. We need to prepare with protein bars, with enough under clothes for the whole 21 days we’ll be out there deployed,” Bastone said. “And all this packing has to be in one bag, so you can only imagine how much we’re trying to get out there to survive.”
The group leaves on Sunday. Sergeant Joshua Perez is also making the trip to the city of Rio Piedras.
“It’s almost to the point where you have to question yourself whether or not you’re going into a safe environment, into a safe condition. But you have to look at the bigger picture. There are people who need our help. These are our people, these are American citizens that need us,” Perez said. “Medical supplies are very scarce. A lot of the barrios and a lot of the areas aren’t receiving the aid that they need.”
And though they’ll leave comfort behind, they hope to bring much healing and hope.
“Three weeks later we get to come home. But they still have to live there and deal with all of the devastation of the hurricane,” Perez said. “For me, it’s very heartfelt. I can’t even put into words how I feel. I just feel like it’s meant to be and I feel obligated to help my people as much as possible.”
Deputies Alessandro Carrasquillo and Enrique Marin are also making the trip.