A group of military veterans from Las Vegas first landed in Haiti two days after a devastating earthquake destroyed the capital city and killed an estimated 230,000 people.
Members of Kingdom Special Operations landed Jan. 14 in Port-au-Prince to help with relief efforts, arriving days before the U.S. military.
Not only did the veterans provide aid to earthquake victims, but their camp became a place of refuge for relief workers who did not bring enough food and water. Decades of military service provided them with the survival skills to take care of themselves and pick up the slack for others.
"We can take care of ourselves for at least a week or two," said Roger Flores, president of Kingdom Special Operations. "You have all of these people going there who want to help the world, and all of a sudden they're the victims. They had no food, no water, and some were sick. They're all laughing and praying, but after the first night they were crying."
Now the faith-based group is trying to return to help with relief efforts after they spent $70,000 of their own money in 14 days on medicine, food, vehicles and translators.
They've since returned from Haiti and completed a few missions across the globe. The group is traveling to Kuwait to meet with a client and discuss funding to return to Haiti. They're mostly former Green Berets who are now accepting contracts from the federal government to provide aid and security all over the world, though they also have worked with various Christian groups.
When pressed for details about their backgrounds and the company, Kingdom Special Operations members become vague about who they are and what they do. Their Web site offers everything from long-range sniper training to bomb jammers, cell phone interceptors and armored cars. The site shows photos of heavily armed people clad in bulletproof vests and camouflage, although some have their faces blocked out for security reasons.
But don't call them mercenaries.
"A mercenary doesn't have loyalty to one government or country," said Eric Childress, the group's vice president of operations and a 20-year Army veteran who is a trained trauma medic. "We're ex-pats or contractors."
The first day they landed in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, dark black smoke clouds from huge fires blocked out sunlight from the sky.
"We found out later that all the smoke in the sky was from the bodies being burned," Flores said. "They had them in piles and in different ditches. There were thousands of them."
Flores slathered on Vicks VapoRub to eliminate death's powerful odor. They bathed in baby wipes when water for showers wasn't available.
"After about three days, you'd build up this disgusting film all over your body," he said.
During their mission, the 10 men worked with medical personnel from University of Miami to create an emergency hospital at Port-au-Prince International Airport, complete with operating rooms for performing amputations when necessary.
Patients who needed surgery sometimes had to cope without sedatives, Flores added.
"You'd walk by it and you wouldn't want to because you'd hear them scream until they passed out," Flores said.
The group found it necessary to quickly adapt to any situation.
A piece of plywood suddenly became a makeshift stretcher to transport earthquake victims who needed medical care.
"People were so desperate for food that they'd beat children and steal their food," he said.
They traded at least 200 pounds of animal crackers they had picked up from bartering with locals for yards of razor wire, which secured the hospital from desperate people wanting to steal drugs and food, Flores said.
"We were assessing what everyone else was doing," Flores said. "Otherwise, we'd be overlapping each other."
They used their military connections to hop on a plane for a two-hour flight to Haiti and brought medical kits with them, carrying 3,000 pounds of gear. They also built shelters and had strong satellite telephone and Internet access from solar panels they brought to charge computers and other electronics.
Flores' crew is planning a return trip to Port-au-Prince to continue helping with relief efforts as soon as they find the funds.
"I personally was touched by God," Flores said. "Something told me that I had learned how to do these things and I could put a group, a company, together. For some reason, I felt like there was a message somewhere. I started calling everybody, and for some reason, everyone could just happen to go."
Contact Kristi Jourdan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.