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El Paso VA officers return from relief effort mission in Puerto Rico

A few good men return from relief effort mission in Puerto Rico humbled

Stories about the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico keep surfacing.

Fortunately, we're also hearing about the volunteers that are helping people on the island get back on their feet.

CBS4 spoke with some heroes just returning from Puerto Rico who also happen to be officers with the El Paso Veterans Affairs.

Capt. Mathew Earls, Capt. Shawn Wells and police Officer Joe Zapata were in Puerto Rico for the first two weeks in October after the hurricane on Sept. 20.

The officers were stationed in the city of Ponce at a community-based outpatient clinic.

They wanted to protect and assist VA staff, veterans, and contractors.

The officers said this mission was an eye-opening experience.

Veteran Affairs came together nationwide and decided to put together a team.

Earls, physical security police captain, described the scene upon arriving on the island as surreal.

”Trees with no bark, lines at the gas station and just complete devastation,” Earls continues, “It’s going to take a long time and they’re going to need constant help.”

Wells, operations captain said, "I visited before the hurricane. It was green. When I came after it was brown.”

The officers were able to assist fellow law enforcement that live in and protect Puerto Rico.

They were able to provide some relief for other officers living on the island who had been working non-stop with only a few hours of sleep.

Zapata said he was happy to give officers that live in Puerto Rico time to get home to be with their families and check out the infrastructure of their homes.

Wells said, “The officers I relieved were there at work literally the next day.”

He continued, “They were there and they were ready to serve veterans and that’s pretty impressive.

The officers said that they’re ready to cycle as much as they need us in reference to going back to the island to help.

One officer stayed behind because he felt he had another 10 days in him.

The next three officers are headed to Puerto Rico on Monday.

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