Savannah, Georgia soldiers fighting pandemic in New York City


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Thousands of military personnel have been serving in cities hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. That includes many from Savannah and some based at Fort Stewart.

Officials say US Army North requested help from several Fort Stewart soldiers who are now assisting with information technology support in New York and New Jersey.

For them — and other Savannah and Georgia soldiers on the front lines of the pandemic — challenges that come with coronavirus hot-spots are a new reality.

Lieutenant Donald Welch, who is also a Savannah nurse, says after a week-long orientation, he immediately started working at New York City’s Javits Center. FEMA turned it into a makeshift hospital to make room for more COVID patients.

“We went straight to work and it was quite busy,” said Lt. Welch, who has been in New York City since the beginning of April. “We had a lot of patients coming in.”

Over in Queens, Georgia native Staff Sergeant Rachelle Dominique gives isolated COVID patients at Elmhurst Hospital the gift of human connection. Through her work with the Family Connection Team, she sets up video chats with their family members, who are not permitted inside.

“Everyone that the patient sees is covered in PPE, so they’re losing that human aspect,” she explained. “But then someone from the Family Connection Team comes in with a tablet and they’re able to see their loved ones…it’s been an emotional impact for everyone.”

Until the pandemic passes, Lt. Welch says his focus is always on his patients. He did, however, have a quick message for his family in Savannah.

“I just want to tell my wife and my two boys that I love them,” he said. “And I’ll be coming home soon. Or I’ll see them when I get there,” he added with a laugh.

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