Time and again, Montana volunteers answered disasters’ call

By MATT OCHSNER

The rolling grasslands of Jordan, Montana, and the sandy beaches of Saint Thomas are worlds apart, but John Koch spent time navigating both during Red Cross deployments.

The Lewistown man worked three Montana wildfire operations — in the Jordan, Hays and Seeley Lake areas — before getting the call to deploy to Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands following hurricanes Irma and Maria. In all he spent about six weeks away from home, helping others.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life involved with emergency service in one form or another,” the retired Washington state trooper and firefighter said. “It gets in your blood and you can’t get it out of there.”

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Koch was one of more than 35 Red Cross volunteers from Montana deployed during 2017, an unprecedented time of disaster. Besides fires and hurricanes, there was also the mass shooting in Las Vegas, where Missoula’s Toni Taylor helped victims find equipment like wheelchairs and crutches, and the wildfires of California. Montanans answered the call each time.

“I want to say thank you to the public for donating to the Red Cross,” Koch said. “They allowed these deployments to happen.”

If you would like to volunteer with Red Cross or make a donation, visit www.redcross.org/montana or call 800-272-6668.

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