Committed to Connection: A Guardian helps his hometown heal

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Spencer Contreras

In the military, service comes in many forms, and for one U.S. Space Force Master Sergeant, it came in the form of helping his hometown recover from a natural disaster.   

U.S. Space Force MSgt. Gary Meiman, Space Launch Delta 45 intelligence flight chief, was part of an informal relief effort in Citrus County, Florida, in the wake of Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall on August 30, 2023.  

Although stationed at Patrick Space Force Base in Brevard County, Florida, Meiman’s family resides in Citrus County. He makes the two-hour drive most weekends to be with them.  

After tracking the path of Idalia, he went to secure his family. 

“I went over there to make sure my mother, my grandfather, wife, family and everybody were in good locations and on high ground,” said Meiman. “I rode out the storm with them over there.” 

Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 Hurricane, producing 125 mph winds, flooding streets, and causing power outages. 

The storm surge produced major flooding in the Citrus County area, which damaged homes and caused some to be cut off from the usual modes of transportation.  

“My family has airboats and are able to get into areas where vehicles can’t go after all the flooding,” said Meiman. “We organized a small group that could get in there and assist people out of homes that were flooded. We were able to go in and get them out of their homes, and then move them back up to dry land or get them in touch with support agencies.” 

In addition to helping rescue displaced people via his airboat, Meiman also took part in relief efforts his church had set up. This included doing laundry for community members whose homes had flooded. 

“My wife and I were doing a lot of their laundry and getting it back to them so they could be comfortable and utilize their own things again,” said Meiman. “To have something of your own, that’s still there, is pretty huge.” 

As a senior non-commisioned officer in the Space Force, Meiman is no stranger to planning and organizing missions, and believes his military training has helped him be of use in situations like these. 

“I understand how to coordinate and get things together, to have a plan instead of just shooting from the hip,” said Meiman. “That’s all stuff I’ve learned from being an NCO and a senior NCO: it’s that ability to coordinate and guide.” 

He takes pride in being a part of the Space Force and the values that his branch stands for. 

“The Guardian Spirit is why I’m here - it’s the appetite to be different and be better, that is the main reason I joined the Space Force,” said Meiman. “I can go out and be a part of my home and community, turn around after the weekend, throw the uniform on and do my job.” 

He often gets to serve his country, but this relief effort was an opportunity to serve the place where he grew up. 

“I was five years old and running boats on the river, fishing and running nets and all that,” said Meiman. “A big part of who I am today is because of that, and being able to go home and serve the folks that built me up is really huge.”