ST. LOUIS (NNS) -- When a natural disaster strikes, the Navy is often at the forefront of recovery efforts lending a helping hand to those who need it.
When tragedy hit close to home during the spring Kansas wildfires, 13 local recruiters assigned to Navy Recruiting District (NRD) St. Louis didn't hesitate to demonstrate the Navy's ability to serve the needs of others.
On March 22, a wildfire that began near Anderson Creek in Freedom, Oklahoma, spread across the state to the southern part of Kansas consuming everything in its path. Among the destruction was the childhood home of Clayton Siemens, native of Buehler, Kansas.
Training to become a pilot and join the Navy, Siemens had one week left at flight instruction school before he was to return home and be officially sworn in.
"I received a call regarding the fire and made a trip home that night to see what had happened," said Siemens.
The home, built by his father when Siemens was a young boy, was completely destroyed. The family lost everything, including their dog.
Siemens said he began calling people and his recruiter, Lt. Robert Burkhead, NRD St. Louis Division 1 division officer, to pray for his family.
"I had heard that several homes had been lost, but you never imagine it would be someone you know," said Burkhead.
Burkhead said he immediately prayed for the family and called his divisional leading petty officer to help coordinate a day for the division to assist the family with cleanup and recovery.
The following week the division gathered at the family's farm and helped clear out burnt trees, fixed fences, and removed debris left by the fire.
Siemens said between family, friends and the division a huge amount of work was able to get done in a short period of time.
"My family and I were very blessed and very thankful to have so many people come out to help us after this incident occurred," Siemens said.
Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Keith Kennedy, NRD St. Louis Division 1 recruiter, assisted with the cleanup and said it was an honor offering his time to help a future shipmate.
"You are donating an irreplaceable resource," said Kennedy. "It follows the Navy's morals and gives us a chance to show the community what we stand for as people, and the organization as a whole."
When the cleanup was done, Burkhead said there was a noticeable change in the property's appearance and in the family's spirits.
"I cannot imagine losing everything from wedding pictures, baby photographs, sentimental family heirlooms, and maintaining the extremely positive outlook the family has," Burkhead added.
Burkhead also said the family was very grateful for the division's assistance and happy their son had decided to join the Navy family.
"They could see how we would always be there for our brothers, sisters and our community," Burkhead added.
According to the Oklahoma Forest Services, by the time the wildfire was contained 14 days after it started, the fire had destroyed nearly 400,000 acres of land and caused millions of dollars in damage.
The Anderson Creek wildfire is the largest one in recorded Kansas history.
For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil, http://www.facebook.com/usnavy, or http://www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Navy Recruiting District St. Louis, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/nrdsl/.