Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
Deployed VA IT staff builds digital bridges to help Hurricane Michael Veterans recover
October 29, 2018
By Jerron Barnett
Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System Public Affairs
PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- Behind the scenes, a dedicated team of Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology professionals kept the electronic and network communication flowing between the tents and medical vehicles of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System’s Hurricane Michael Medical Unit.
From providing satellite phones to laptop computers, this IT team is proud to serve. They have since rotated back to their home VA Medical Centers, but they took a few moments to reflect on the services they provided during their time in Panama City.
“This is who we are,” Lorenzo Rogers, information technology specialist supervisor, said, who deployed to support to unit from Little Rock, Arkansas VA. “After 24 years in the Air Force, all I know is to serve. People are my business.”
Sharon Derry, a customer support technician who also deployed from Little Rock, shared a similar outlook.
It’s an honor and privilege to be here,” Derry said, “to do all we can, even though we are in the background, to make sure everyone is up and running so they can assist all the Veterans who are coming in.”
Derry said it’s been a “humbling experience” for her, to hear all the stories from Veterans recovering from Hurricane Michael, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Oct. 10.
The third member of the team, Daniel Robinson, an IT analyst from Bay Pines, Florida VA, appreciates the feedback they have received from other Medical Unit team members about the services they provide.
“It makes us feel fantastic,” Robinson said. “This was an empty parking lot when we arrived here Sunday (Oct. 14), and the first thing that needs to happen is communication. Communication has been the heartbeat of the operation here.”
Robinson said it’s been “overwhelming” to see his “fellow Floridians” go through this tragedy.
“This is where we are supposed to be,” Robinson said. “The patients come here with a look of desperation and they leave with a look of hope. It’s a great feeling to be a part of that.”
The Medical Unit operations are now located at the Panama City Beach VA Clinics, 2600 Veterans Way and 140 Richard Jackson Boulevard. Services for Veterans began today, and will be available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.