U.S Navy Captain Robert Lansden recently dropped in on a kindergarten class in Basra, Iraq.
“I want to thank them for being such beautiful children,” he told a translator.
The children may not realize it, but Lansden played a vital role in the rebuilding of their classrooms. Watch the Fox 8 News Report Below:
For Lansden, a naval reservist, it’s been an unlikely journey that began on August 29th, 2005. The day Katrina hit his hometown of New Orleans, Lansden was captain of the U.S.N.S. Pollux, a merchant marine ship docked on the riverfront for repairs.
“I knew the city,” he recalled. “I was from there. I knew the high ground from the low ground.”
The Pollux happened to be marooned in New Orleans as Katrina roared ashore, undergoing repairs. Its engines were out, but it was loaded with several hundred thousand gallons of diesel fuel and fresh water. In a city that could not function, the Pollux was an island of modern convenience.
“I saw my own city destroyed,” Lansden remembers, “and I worked really hard to help bring that city back up.”
Only miles from the Pollux, the situation at West Jefferson Medical Center was in sharp contrast. For days, the hospital staff and patients suffered with no electricity and no running water.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Robert Lansden showed up at the hospital, offering help.
“I was blessed to have that ability and to have ridden through the storm, to already be there,” he says.
Lansden got permission from his navy bosses to share his supplies: diesel, water, even the ship itself. Dialysis machines and close to a dozen dialysis patients were actually loaded up from West Jeff and driven to the Pollux.
After the Katrina experience, Lansden volunteered for duty in another country in need of rebuilding. Today, he is director of CMOC, the U.S. Army’s Civil Military Operations Center, which rebuilds roads, schools and public buildings in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq.