By AIRMAN 1ST CLASS LAUREN PITTS
Minot Air Force Base
Senior Airman Jacob Blankenbaker, structural journeyman with the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, saws through a wooden board during a volunteer project in Velva, July 28, shown in this photo by Airman 1st Class Lauren Pitts. The 5th Civil Engineer Squadron volunteers helped rebuild the home of a Minot native who lost his possessions in the 2011 flood.
VELVA When the Souris River flooded in 2011, thousands of people from the Minot community were washed out of their homes. Airmen from Minot Air Force Base worked with members of the town to repair the damages. Through their hard work they put Team Minot and the local community back on its feet.
Now three years after the flood, Minot continues to thrive, but some still struggle in the aftermath of the disaster and again turn to Minot's airmen for help.
"I built my home in Minot from the ground up," said Gary Ellingson, Vietnam War veteran and Minot native. "A little bit at a time over the years, and then the flood came."
Ellingson lost his home and most of his possessions in the flood, forcing him to begin his life over again. With injuries sustained from his time in the military, Ellingson couldn't manage the labor of renovating a whole house alone. However, through his volunteer work with the Red Cross, Ellingson got in touch with the right kind of man power to help with his project.
Senior Master Sgt. Jeffery Sipos, superintendent of the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron at Minot AFB, was contacted through the Red Cross to assist Ellingson. He said it didn't take much to get other airmen on board as well.
"We jumped on this opportunity to help," said Sipos. "Especially being civil engineers, we felt like we had the right skills to make sure it got done right."
With a team of volunteers consisting of airmen throughout the ranks, Sipos and his wingmen dedicated their Saturday to working on Ellingson's Velva home.
Ellingson has spent most of his time there removing what the previous owners had left behind, leaving little time for him to focus on actual renovations. That is where the 5th CES airmen jumped in.
"We're looking to install a whole kitchen full of cabinets and taking out five trees that have their roots breaking into the foundation," Sipos said. "It's a lot of work, but we'll get it done."
Although Ellingson said he never planned on having to start another home, he is glad to have help from the airmen.
"I am grateful and then some," Ellingson said. "It was amazing and a blessing to receive this kind of help."
Sipos views the project as doing something good for good people, which he feels is what Minot airmen are all about.
"As airmen, it's kind of in our culture to volunteer," said Sipos. "But when it's an opportunity to help our prior military, it's more like helping family."