Central Texas Heroes: Helping Puerto Rico

HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas (KWTX) One Central Texas veteran born in Puerto Rico spent decades serving our country.

Photo by Jackeline Fountain

Now she's serving her community on the city council for Harker Heights.

And after Hurricane Maria she went back to the U.S. territory to help her family recover from the devastating storm.

"Maria came through on September 20, a Category 5, and devastated the entire island," she said.

When Jackeline Fountain saw what happened to the island of her birth she knew she had to go help her family.

"The majority of my family is living in Puerto Rico still, from my father's side, all of them are still in PR," she said, "I felt like I needed to get there to be with my family."

So she loaded up supplies, generators, anything she could take with her to help in the recovery, and flew to Puerto Rico.

Infrastructure damage delayed her arrival by about 16 days.

"I was flying in and I saw the devastation, all the roof tops, a lot of roof tops gone," Fountain said.

She'll never forget what the storm did to the trees on the lush tropical island.

"They looked like when you light a fire, a match, and the flame is out, and you just have all these little sticks and it was always so green," she explained.

It was the worst storm there in 85 years.

Just getting around was next to impossbible.

"When I got there, there was a lot of rubbish, a lot of limbs still on the trees," she said, "our road to the farm was blocked so they actually had to get out the machetes and they had to cut, chop, chop, the trees so they could get the cars out just so they could get provisions, water, fuel, sustenance, just to survive."

And the resources were scarce.

She explained, "you had people that were in line eight or nine hours and when they got up to pay for the fuel, the fuel was gone."

But there's a saying in Puerto Rico.

"What Puerto Rico says is 'Puerto Rico stands up,' so that means everybody has to stand up, everybody has to pitch in, and you just can't sit and wait for the government to do everything. You have to do some stuff," Fountain told us.

Fountain says contrary to a lot of the backlash against the federal response, Puerto Ricans were thankful for the help they received, knowing logistics presented some problems.

"It's all about education. You have an island, it takes time. It's not like you're in Texas and you have a state next door that can come and help us."

So they just got to work with the resources they had on hand.

"The churches were great. There was water, there was rations," she said, "if you had a gas stove you cooked and fed the rest of the neighborhod so they came together."

And good came out of working together.

"We lost a lot of material possessions and homes, but what we gain is the ability to communicate again with one another as human beings," Fountain told us.

But there's still much that needs to be done, including overhauling the utility infrastructure and restoring power.

And with a recovery that could take years she hopes Central Texans step up to help.

"I know in Killeen they were doing drives and trying to get the equipment out there, and so I'm really grateful for everyone."