Bradenton Salvation Army pair anticipate trip to be trying, rewarding

vmannix@bradenton.comMay 23, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Major Marion Durham and Julia Showers were like many Americans transfixed by the scenes on their TVs of widespread destruction in Moore, Okla..

Horror and heartbreak only begin describing what the two Manatee County Salvation Army officials felt at what they saw.

"The loss of life," Durham said.

"People with no homes," Showers said.

Both women will have the chance to bring comfort and aid to the afflicted Oklahomans. They've been requested by Salvation Army headquarters in Atlanta to join the disaster relief effort ongoing in the wake of Monday's monstrous tornado.

Durham left Wednesday, Showers leaves this Monday and both will be gone

for two weeks.

"When that email comes, you say 'yes' without hesitation," said Durham, who will serve as an emotional-and-spiritual care officer on a Salvation Army team seeing to the multiple needs of victims and first-responders.

"My role is to pray, hug and cry along with people who are hurting," she said. "It will be an emotional experience, absolutely."

This will be the first such operation in 15 years as a Salvation Army officer for Durham, whose husband, Dwayne, has been involved in several during those years.

"Our slogan -- 'Heart to God, Hand to Man' -- is appropriate for what we'll be doing the next two weeks," she said.

For Showers, who will be a liaison to other relief groups at emergency operation command, it will be yet another deployment in 20-plus years with the Salvation Army.

That includes Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Showers served with a canteen team after Andrew nearly destroyed Homestead, and was with the command center in Jackson, Miss., after Katrina ravaged the upper Gulf Coast.

Showers anticipates another difficult mercy mission.

"They're emotionally and physically draining experiences, but that's to be expected," she said. "But it's also rewarding because every little bit helps no matter what it is."

Like Durham, Showers is a mother and empathizes with parents whose children died at an elementary school.

"I can't imagine sending my daughter off to school and never seeing her again," she said.

Yet both women will do their best to help Oklahomans heal.

"It's part of our lives," Moore said. "I'm glad to go."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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