Ashland grad serving in Navy helps typhoon survivors

Ashland High School graduate Greg Amorelli always wanted to help people, so when he joined the Navy six years ago, he became an aviation rescue swimmer, serving on aircraft carriers.

But the opportunity to help others never came, and with four months until his discharge, he thought it never would, say his parents, Nick and Christine Amorelli of Ashland.

Then came typhoon Haiyan, whose 195 mph winds devastated the Philippines, leveling towns and cutting water and food supplies. The carrier USS George Washington was called in from Hong Kong for relief efforts, and Amorelli began seven-hour helicopter missions, flying clean water, food and supplies into remote villages.

Despite tales of villagers swarming helicopters, Amorelli, in an email to his parents, reported the headman greeted him, then assigned a team to receive 1,400 pounds of supplies in an orderly fashion onto a school playground.

"We fly over once lush vegetation, now turned into stripped-down palms that look like toothpicks sticking in the ground, and gutted villages and towns where rooftops are blown off or the entire building is gone with nothing but shattered wood and sheet metal in its place," wrote Amorelli, a chief petty officer, second class.

"The only 'mobbing' we encounter is at the end, when everyone from the village tries to shake our hands and take our pictures. They're so happy just to have food and water."

At the village, a woman who is a U.S. citizen approached Amorelli, gave him a name on a scrap of paper and asked him to tell her brother, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, that she and her family are healthy and recovering from the typhoon. After some research, Amorelli emailed the brother and delivered the good news.

"Here I am, four months away from getting out of the Navy, fearing that I would never get to do what I signed up to do (help people)," wrote Amorelli, "and I'm at the epicenter of what I feel embodies the goodness in humanity. For all the crimes that are committed, all the violence and war that goes on, it's a blessing to be a part of something that leaves a positive impact on the world."

A 1996 graduate of AHS, Amorelli got a degree in studio art from Willamette University. When he gets out of the Navy this spring, he plans to become a firefighter in San Diego.

— John Darling

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