Brothers Ian Cavenall, 21, and Evan Cavenall, 19, sprang into action when they heard about the experience of some of the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt docked at U.S. Naval Base Guam.
“Guam is a beautiful place, and to see that COVID-19 has hit them, it just sucks,” Evan said. “I hope it gets better over there, and I hope we can do something like that again and help out as best we can. That’s the most important part there — lending a helping hand.”
For such a large ship to dock in such a small area, housing situations were cramped and resources were low already, Ian said. The coronavirus pandemic affected that situation even more — taxing resources, infecting soldiers and keeping them from returning home.
“With the island being as small as it is, it’s not that easy to get food and stuff out there,” Ian said. “For the sailors and the natives who live there. What we were doing and thinking was — how can we help?”
So the brothers put together boxes of protein bars and hygienic items like toothbrushes and shower shoes.
Ian and Evan’s parents had been living in Guam for two years with the brothers living with them intermittently. They are currently living with their grandparents in Lufkin.
“They said, ‘So dad what are you doing?’ I told them what was going on,” Lt. Cmdr. Ivan Cavenall said in an article published in the military newsletter in Guam. “The conversation morphed and they said, ‘You know what, Dad? We’d like to show our support,’ and that was the genesis of it all.”
“We’ve always had that kind of background extending a helping hand and volunteering, but also, coming from a military family and a military background, we just felt the call to help,” Ian said. “Plus, both of us plan on serving, ourselves, in the future.”
Lt. Cmdr. Cavenall is a Navy Reservist with Commander Task Force 75 and was activated to work in the NBG Emergency Operations Center. The Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier pulled into Apra Harbor, Guam, on March 27 and implemented a phased and methodical approach to address the COVID-19 outbreak among its crew, according to the military newsletter article.
“Naval Base Guam and Capt. (Jeffrey) Grimes and his crew were really ramping up — (COVID-19) was uncharted territory, you know, for a lot of us,” Lt. Cmdr. Cavenall said. “The important part for me, was to be able to lend my skills to that continued effort and the staff here at NBG have done a tremendous job.”
Ian is currently studying management information systems and cybersecurity at Prairie View A&M University and Evan is studying multidisciplinary studies at Angelina College. Ian plans to join the Coast Guard Officer Candidacy School after college and Evan plans to join the Navy.
“I just want to go back to the way things were,” Evan said. “This COVID-19 has been stopping a lot of normal day activities that we used to do and love, and now it’s back tracking. Hopefully, we can lessen that curve out someday soon with more help like this.”
For anyone who wants to donate, the Cavenall brothers said think of healthy snacks and hygiene items, things a person would want to have on a boat, and to send the boxes to the base.
“Some of these deployments are pretty long and arduous and whether it be land or sea, sometimes these guys, they don’t get a chance to contact their loved ones or family,” Lt. Cmdr. Cavenall said. “So it’s very important for us as members of the community both local and military to let them know ‘hey, look, you’re not alone, somebody here is thinking about you and somebody here cares for you.’ It really boosts morale and the ability for that sailor to continue on in the fight.”
The USS Theodore Roosevelt has departed the island, but there are still several Roosevelt sailors at NBG.
NBG Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Kyu Lee is spearheading the quality of life task force and said the task force will continue their mission so long as there are Roosevelt sailors aboard NBG. The donations include snacks, candy, cereal, toiletries, laundry detergent, books, coffee pods, blankets, pillows, towels and more.
“We are still here, and we are still moving as the donations come. We will always try to meet their needs,” Lee said. “We want to continue and we will finish strong.”