By Joseph Andrew Lee

It’s been an agonizing summer for Southern Louisiana.

Three weeks ago, nearly 7 trillion gallons of rain fell on 146,000 households in the region. The subsequent flooding killed 13 people and caused almost $9 billion in damage.

When the rain finally stopped, the USO sprung into action.

Acting on its mission to connect service members to their families, home and country, the USO responded with more than $100,000 in goods, services and entertainment for more than 300 affected military families and 2,900 Louisiana National Guardsmen who were deployed to help clean up and rebuild.

“We didn’t wait for them to come to us. We immediately reached out to them,” USO Gulfport Director Felice Gillum said. “In the aftermath we started reaching out to National Guard and Coast Guard units in the area and they put us in touch with the right people in order to get their needs met.”

1/5 Photos

Louisiana National Guardsmen enjoy playing one of 18 Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems (MEGS) sent to service members assisting with the flood cleanup near Baton Rouge. Packaged in small, rugged containers, MEGS provides instant entertainment options to service members in remote locations. Within minutes of receiving MEGS, troops can be watching a movie or playing a video game, bringing them a true comfort from home.

2/5 Photos

USO staffers Felice Kelly Gillum and Nicole Lewis assist Gulfport Fire Department sort relief supplies from the USO Gulf Coast supply drive for flood victims in Louisiana.

3/5 Photos

Louisiana National Guardsmen enjoy playing one of 18 Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems (MEGS) sent to service members assisting with the flood cleanup near Baton Rouge. Packaged in small, rugged containers, MEGS provides instant entertainment options to service members in remote locations. Within minutes of receiving MEGS, troops can be watching a movie or playing a video game, bringing them a true comfort from home.

4/5 Photos

Gulfport Fire Department sorts relief supplies from the USO Gulf Coast supply drive for flood victims in Louisiana.

5/5 Photos

Gulfport Fire Department sorts relief supplies from the USO Gulf Coast supply drive for flood victims in Louisiana.

Most of the military population in the affected area serve in either the Coast Guard or the National Guard. That means most of their families don’t live on a base with emergency response resources.

Instead, Gillum’s USO in Gulfport, Mississippi — more than 130 miles away — has been one of the guiding forces gathering support from surrounding cities and local organizations. USO Gulfport has coordinated with the City of Gulfport, Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport, Keesler Air Force Base, Naval Construction Battalion Center, Air National Guard Gulfport, Mississippi Power Corporation and even individuals in the community to provide support.

The USO at the national level has helped, too.

“From USO national headquarters we’ve sent three USO2GO packages and 18 Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems [MEGS] to the 2,900 National Guardsmen deployed to help with the cleanup,” USO Programs Manager Cristin Perry said.

Packaged in small, rugged containers, MEGS provide instant entertainment options to service members in remote locations. With it’s plug-and-play setup, troops can watch a movie or play a video game within minutes of receiving a MEGS.

“Most people are familiar with wartime deployments,” Perry said, “but so often we overlook the members of the National Guard who deploy for months at a time in support of their local communities, whose own families have often been affected by the same natural disasters they are charged with cleaning up.”

“It’s still a mess out there,” Gillum said. “We still have people combating mold and trying to dry out their homes and there are still no stores open in their area, so everything we are supplying is being used up immediately. They need everything they can get, and we have more shipments on the way.”

You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.