NU grad helps deliver supplies to quake-wrecked island nation |

NU grad helps deliver supplies to quake-wrecked island nation

Less than 24 hours after meeting his newborn son, duty called Navy firefighter Michael Deme.

The 20-year old Grass Valley native was called into action Jan. 13 as his ship, the USS Normandy, was deployed from Norfolk, Va., to the coast of Haiti to respond to the earthquake that devastated the small Caribbean nation.

At 5 a.m. on Jan. 12, the day of the quake, Deme welcomed son Aiden into the world in Norfolk. At 3 a.m. on Jan. 13, Deme was awakened – not by his infant, but his superior.

“It was really bad to leave right after he was born,” Deme said. “But we got the call at 3 a.m. that said we needed to ship out because of the earthquake. I had to be at the boat by 5 a.m. and we left around 6 p.m. that night. I was really tired.”

The Normandy, a guided missile cruiser, left for Haiti on a humanitarian mission, delivering some 125,000 MREs (meals ready-to-eat) and thousands of gallons of water to the beleaguered country. The ship arrived Jan. 16 and left Tuesday, Feb. 9 to return to Norfolk.

While Deme didn’t set boots on Haitian soil, his time on the coast was busy, he said, loading and unloading supplies onto helicopters bound for towns on the small Haitian island of La Gonave and the populous Port-au-Prince capital area.

Medical officers from the ship delivered more than 3,000 pounds of medical supplies to the country and responded to more than 100 injured Haitians.

“Aside from keeping the ship running, we were making runs to a resupply ship every few days and kept getting those supplies onto the airlifts,” Deme said.

The 2007 graduate of Nevada Union High School said although many of the sailors didn’t go ashore, they kept up with the events on the island through reports issued by their commanding officer and cable TV news networks.

The Normandy’s crew drew praise from their commanding officer, Capt. Jeffery T. Griffin.

“I’m very proud of the crew; they were they flexible from the get go, the way they adapted to the mission, and the way they gave their hearts to helping the people of Haiti,” Griffin said in a Thursday press release.

Since returning to Norfolk Feb. 11, Deme said he’s been spending time with Aiden after being away for most of the baby’s first month.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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