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I’m A Marine And I Tried To Help Puerto Rico, But The Bureaucracy Stopped Me


It is not often volunteer opportunities arise that seem so tailored to your skills that they appear to call you by name. This was my experience recently with respect to Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria. Unfortunately, my efforts since the beginning of October have yet to be successful and may have been in vain.

After a deployment to Afghanistan with the Marine Corps between 2010 and 2011, I came home to Florida to finish school. Shortly after my return, I began work as a truck driver for a local distributor. My experience driving in the Marines allowed me to transition into the private sector and succeed in the logistics field.

I drive long-haul trucks across the lower 48 states. I was on the road when Maria struck Puerto Rico, and had just had to deal with the results of Hurricane Irma at my own home outside Orlando. My heart went out to the Puerto Rican people. Just as my moral compass and desire to serve had directed me to the Marines, it compelled me to offer my assistance to Puerto Rico.

Following the storm, local truck drivers were left without resources necessary to drive to work. Vast uncertainty and the cost of the disaster to Puerto Rican families prevented many individuals from leaving home even if they had the means. With the supply chain in shambles, the Puerto Rican governor’s office put out a call for mainland commercial drivers willing to help. Unfortunately, as I have learned from my time in the Marines, bureaucrats’ capacity to stifle selfless service is disturbingly strong.

I Called Everyone and His Grandmother to Try to Help

A phone number was released by the governor’s office and provided on the news. Drivers interested in helping the logistics nightmare Puerto Rico faced were instructed to call and wait for a text. I called. No answer, no text. I was also made aware of a website for volunteers. I promptly registered, but then nothing.

In an effort to be proactive, I attempted contacting the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA). I have called half a dozen times, sent an email and messaged both their and a PRFAA official’s Twitter account. Additionally, I sent an email directly to the San Juan relief zone set up by the governor’s office. No luck.

I had read some positive things about the Puerto Rican congresswoman’s efforts helping the recovery and relief process. I contacted her office and was forwarded back over to the PRFAA—which refuses to answer phone calls.

The larger government institutions grow, the more inefficient they become. This is a common theme across the board. Whether you’re talking about Puerto Rico or Washington, the recipe is the same. Everyone has a title and a cushy position but no one is in charge or has direct jurisdiction over problems.

This diffusion of accountability ensures the right hand is unaware of what the left is doing, and no one knows what is expected of him. Consequently, no one feels direct responsibility for objectives or overall mission accomplishment. While an agency may have the best of intentions, this formula ensures that nothing gets done.

With mounting frustrations and disinterest from Puerto Rico’s representatives, I decided to reach out through this article instead. I am sure I am not the only truck driver who wants to help with the relief effort. I have the means to take a few weeks off and, due to my military experience, I am uniquely qualified to help in adverse conditions. If I have had this much trouble, I can only imagine how many other would-be volunteers have already given up.

Every day I hear how tough a time the Puerto Rican people are having. I know they need help but I have been shut down at every turn. I can’t even get a response telling me to go pound sand.

The President Has Less Influence Than You Think

The mainstream media would have you believe the Evil Donald is behind the scenes undermining every campaign to assist. These memes have been floating around for weeks. Time and again, the media in this country is out to leverage national tragedies to unfairly attack the commander-in-chief and divide our nation. Sadly, the media’s obsession with fueling the flames of discontent is working.

I repeatedly hear, “President Trump doesn’t care about Puerto Ricans.” This does not seem to be the case from where I’m situated. Where in my story have I even mentioned the president’s name? Not once. It seemed more reasonable for me to contact the people who were directly involved than fire some angry tweets at the president, especially given that the president is unable to fire the vast majority of the federal employees he ostensibly oversees, even if they are convicted of crimes or just found horribly incompetent.

Not unlike our nation’s conflicts overseas, the situation in Puerto Rico is complicated. The failure to critically think is dangerous, far too common, and encouraged by the media’s spoon-feeding of nonsense. While no one responsible for preventing me from helping the people of Puerto Rico directly answers to the president, he seems to get all of the blame.

Where the states of Texas and Florida took on the brunt of the workload for Harvey and Irma, Puerto Rico has failed, placing a massive burden on federal agencies. A history of irresponsible governance from bloated Puerto Rican bureaucracies came to a head just last year when Congress created a Fiscal Control Board to oversee the Island’s financial affairs. In short, there are many factors at play beyond foolish notions that “Trump doesn’t care about Puerto Ricans.”

Please Let Me Help Needy People

This article is driven by my passion to help. I’ve tried the Puerto Rican governor and PRFAA, members of Congress and online volunteer organizations. I’m not sure who else I ought to ask.

My employer will grant a leave of absence pending direction from a relief agency or organization. I just need a point of contact assuring that I will have a spot to help and will not be a drain on resources.

No matter how this turns out, one thing is clear. Our country needs more leaders with the drive to solve problems and an understanding of how administrative red tape constrains Americans’ passion to help their countrymen. I don’t like talking in circles or cutting checks to faceless charities paying gobs in administrative costs. I’m a doer. I just need an opportunity to do.