Sent to set up networking links, soldier reunites with family members

Army Spc. Corey Kelley

Dawn

NEW ORLEANS'For Army Specialist Corey Kelly, being sent to New Orleans was a dual mission. He came here to help his 56th Signal Battalion set up network communications that ultimately assist troops on the ground, but coming back to his hometown also gave him an opportunity to search for his missing father and grandfather.

Kelly, assigned to Fort Gordon, Ga., is a member of a battalion installing secret and nonsecret computer networks and phone lines.

In the days before Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, Kelly's six sisters and brothers had left for Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas and other parts of Louisiana. But since then, they had been trying to locate their father and grandfather, praying that both were able to get out of New Orleans.

With telephone communications down, wireless connectivity unstable and travel perilous in the hard-hit areas, Kelly and his siblings' efforts had been fruitless prior to last Friday. "I knew my grandfather wasn't leaving. He's old and has been there for awhile. So I talked to my commander about it, and I guess it went up the chain," said Kelly, who is working out of New Orleans International Airport.

On Friday, the 56th Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Stephen Middleton, and the 93rd Signal Brigade Commander, Col. David Dodd, invited Kelly to travel with them into downtown New Orleans to search for his missing family members.

On the block where Kelly's cousin lived, they found an uprooted oak tree that had fallen on a house, splitting it in two. There were power lines down everywhere. They walked down to Kelly's church, built by his great-grandfather, and his grandmother's house and found plenty of broken windows, but no sign of his father or grandfather.

Then they drove to Kelly's grandfather's house and found Kelly's uncle standing outside. He was ecstatic to learn that his father and grandfather they were both inside and relatively safe.

"We all hugged and shed a few tears," Kelly recalled. "The ceiling inside had caved in, and my grandfather had some cuts, but he's OK. I called my sisters, and they are all happy just knowing that they're all right."

After the reunion, Middleton and Dodd presented Kelly's father with an Army dog tag, which included the American flag with the Bible verse Joshua 1:9 engraved on it: "I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified, or discouraged; for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go."

GCN staff writer Dawn Onley is embedded with the Army's 93rd Signal Brigade in Camp Shelby, Miss. She will be sending reports on how the military is helping restore communications in Mississippi, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.

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