As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country, the Northwest region of New Mexico was one of the hardest hit areas; inspiring local veterans to take action to ensure families were not left without food and other essential items.
“This pandemic has taken a mental health toll on veterans because it has cut off a lot of resources that were available to socialize and engage in personal self-development,” Christian Vasquez said. "But that hasn't stopped us."
Vasquez is the vice president of UNM Gallup Branch Campus’s Veterans Resource Center (VRC). He said the state’s stay-at-home order has been tough on families and veterans in the area.
Gallup VRC President Eric Thomas, Vasquez and other veterans saw this pandemic as a opportunity to help. Due to stringent public health orders in place, supplies were delivered to these areas as part of the COVID-19 relief efforts.
“We started by helping unload food trucks - literally a whole semi full of supplies,” Vasquez said. “We have to sanitize and package everything. We break the flour, rice and beans down from 50-pound bags to 5-pound bags.”
Since March, Vasquez and Thomas said more than 800 boxes have been distributed to families.
“The number of veterans who have stepped up is amazing,” Vasquez said.
“It’s what veterans do,” Thomas said. “We signed up to help people.”