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A mercy mission of note

September 18, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT

Robert Stike grew up in Pennsylvania and teaches in Maryland.

But it was through Delaware that he made his mark helping Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi.

Stike's first emergency mission after six years with the Delaware National Guard was this month.

In Mississippi, he was in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Perry County, giving food, water and ice to whomever needed it.

His deployment was Sept. 2 to 11. He didn't ask to stay longer because he's starting his first year as Springfield Middle School's band director.

Calling himself a "newsaholic," Stike said he was well aware of conditions on the Gulf Coast before he got there.

Still, certain sights bothered him, such as dirty and hungry babies living without air conditioning in 95-degree heat. Their parents couldn't afford formula or diapers.

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"It was really eye-opening ... to see Americans just thirsty and hungry," said Stike, 25, a native of Waynesboro, Pa.

Stike also recalled seeing a two-mile line for gas pumps.

Stike had little notice before his trip. He heard two days in advance that he likely would be activated, then got 12 hours notice to report.

He was one of 16 members called to duty from the 287th Army band unit.

Stike said he joined the Delaware National Guard, which was based not far from his college, West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

After moving back to the Tri-State area, though, he stayed with the band unit.

Stike said he started in Jackson on Sept. 2. Guard members stayed there for a few days, giving out food, water and ice.

In each city, lines were large at first. But they thinned, and guard members moved to the next place, where they were needed more, Stike said.

Stike said power was returning in some areas and stores were reopening, but some people were out of work and couldn't afford necessities.

"Grown men would come through in tears," thankful for supplies, he said.

Stike returned to work to find plastic Army men scattered around the Springfield Middle School band room.

He said he brought back a greater appreciation of American spirit.

"I worked with community members who lost everything. "They still volunteered."

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