144th Fighter Wing members assisting Bay Area families during COVID-19 pandemic

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KFSN) -- What you're seeing is a military operation against an unseen enemy that's causing massive fallout, like hunger.

Thirty members from the Air National Guard 144th Fighter Wing based in Fresno are helping in the battle against the coronavirus by assembling, packaging and distributing 20,000 food boxes a day to meet the need for Bay Area families.

These men and women weren't ordered to be here. They're willingly serving the need at the Silicon Valley food bank, Second Harvest.

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"I'm talking to Guardsmen today who left their families behind who have volunteered to be here," says Second Harvest Silicon Valley CEO, Leslie Bacho. "I talked to someone who's about to graduate from Fresno State, and he has volunteered to spend the last part of his semester here with us."

Every other part of the effort is also donated, from the warehouse space to the food.

Like many charities, Second Harvest has seen a sharp rise in need as the stay-at-home order continues and more people lose their jobs and ability to provide.

It's especially rewarding to help for servicemembers like the mother of three, Master Sergeant Sophia Rodriguez, of Clovis.

"Each day, we celebrate that win," Rodriguez said. "What are we doing to provide food for everybody in the area? And why are we doing it? And's that's what's really driving the passion behind the work that's happening here."

This group worked as a team from the start because, in their civilian jobs, they are distribution supervisors or forklift operators or logistics specialists.

Some have other skills that are just as appreciated.

"It's a great feeling to work with them," says Lt. Col. Lennie Lujan. "There are no barbershops open. I don't have to worry about a haircut, but some of the young kids do. We have a young man that brought his clippers who has been cutting hair at night. We take care of each other. That's what we do."

Since the Fresno State student can't be in class, he can be on duty for others.

"It's definitely a necessity in this time of crisis, what we can do help out the community and respond to it," says Sr. Airman Benjamin Johnston. "It's definitely uplifting to think about it, doing something really good."

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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