By Eric Longabardi
Since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan earlier this month American military personnel stationed in Japan have been watching and waiting. Now uncertainty has been replaced with a steady stream of military families leaving Japan. A voluntary evacuation began this past weekend.
Dubbed “Operation Pacific Passage” by the Pentagon, charter military flights began arriving last Saturday at Seattle Washington’s SEA-TAC airport and additional flights touched down in Northern California’s Travis Air Force Base just west of Sacramento. On Tuesday over 500 service members dependents and civil employees arrived at the Northern California air base. Additionally, thousands more are expected to arrive up and down the U.S. Pacific coast – including Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego – in the coming days and weeks.
Here in Newport Beach, American Legion Post 291, a longtime fixture for military veterans and their families in Orange County, the word went out on Wednesday that military members and families evacuating from Japan need help.
Cindy Widdalll, the wife of Newport Beach’s American Legion Vice Commander Ken Widdall, put the word out Tuesday on the Legion’s Facebook page that donations of water, snacks and basic essentials were needed immediately by the USO in support of the arriving military families.
According the Newport American Legion Commander Steve Springs, $1,500 worth of support checks went out on Wednesday to help the USO in dealing with the influx – $500 each to the LAX, Palm Springs and Ontario USO units.
Although most evacuees from Japan have so far come on military flights to locations in Northern California and Seattle, it’s expected more will soon be on their way to Southern California as well. The families already back are expected to make their way to their respective military posts here in Orange County and Southern California. As that happens the need for support and assistance will only increase.
According to the Newport American Legion 291 the call also went out to the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) and the American Legion Yacht Club (ALYC), both are affiliated military veteran’s groups here in Newport Beach and are directly affiliated with the Newport American Legion 291 Post. SAL and ALYC are also expected to making their own financial contributions to the USO to help deal with the needs of the returning service members from Japan and their families here in Southern California.
If you would like more information on how you can help, contact the USO or Newport Beach’s American Legion 291 Post directly, visit: