published Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Soldiers come to aid of East Ridge

Volunteers from the Air Force, Air National Guard and the Pentagon arrived in East Ridge on Friday to help owners of some of the city’s 288 damaged homes clean up over the weekend.

The 15 men decided to spend their efforts in East Ridge because other areas are inundated with relief crews. Many of the city’s families also don’t have insurance and can’t afford to remove trees and debris from their property.

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Ericson, who is stationed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and organized the group, has family in Ringgold, Ga., and said he wants to do whatever he can to help people get back to normal.

“It’s tough being so far away, seeing what’s on the news, to see a place you knew not exist in the same way anymore,” Ericson said.

The city can’t help private property owners with damage but is continuing to work to clear roads, said Tim Gobble, East Ridge city manager.

Of the 288 East Ridge homes damaged in the storms, two were destroyed and 35 sustained major damage, he said.

Thirty-eight people already have called, asking to be on the list of homes helped by the military relief team, Gobble said, and the city has prioritized the elderly.

“It’s a great thing, taking their own personal time to assist East Ridge,” Gobble said.

Bobbie Citty, 76, said contractors haven’t been able to get into her home to begin repairs because they couldn’t remove a 100-year-old tree laying across one side of the house. Ericson’s group spent several hours Friday, chain sawing that tree and others.

“I think it’s absolutely wonderful that they care this much to help people,” Citty said. “I told them that they shouldn’t help us because were not near as bad as others, but we really appreciate it.”

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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