KSLA Salutes: Oklahoma National Guard Member & new mom helps south Louisiana after Hurricane Ida

Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner (Oklahoma National Guard Photo By Sgt....
Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner (Oklahoma National Guard Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Mireille Merilice-Roberts)(Sgt. 1st Class Mireille Merilice-Roberts)
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 4:19 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 4:24 PM CDT
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Oklahoma City, Ok. (KSLA) - Staff Sergeant Macey Winegarner, with the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma National Guard, was one of nearly 500 Air and National Guardsmen who provided emergency relief in South Louisiana following Hurricane Ida.

“I think the one word to say is humbling,” said Winegarner when describing her time in south Louisiana. “To be able to be there, to see everything firsthand, to experience everything. I’ve deployed but I’ve never had the opportunity to help stateside with an emergency like this. So the minute they sent out that they needed help my husband and I did not hesitate at all. We contacted our Chief and let him know we wanted to go and assist in this even though I was breastfeeding at the time. My husband asked me how we were going to do this, how I planned on making it work. I said I have no clue. At that time I had no idea how I was going to make it work but I did not want it to hold me back from going. It was a day-by-day learning experience and we made it work.”

She started at a Reservist at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. After six years, she transferred to the National Guard side, and has been in Okla. for almost a year after meeting her husband during deployment.

“I just remember back seven or eight years ago that I had this sense to do something bigger than just myself,” Winegarner said. “To have that selfless act of helping others. One way to do that was to join the military. My family had two people who served in the military and one of them was my great-grandfather that I never got to meet. My uncle is in the Air Force. I was the first female to actually join.”

Just six months ago, Winegarner gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Assisting after Hurricane Ida would be her first temporary assignment during a state of emergency, and she said she wasn’t going to let her need to pump her milk stop her from assisting those in need.

Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner (center) helps distribute water to...
Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner (center) helps distribute water to residents affected by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, Sept. 09, 2021. (Photo Courtesy Staff Sgt. of Macey Winegarner)(Sgt. 1st Class Mireille Merilice | Oklahoma National Guard)

“I had the opportunity to help out in a different way that not many people there at that time could,” Winegarner said. “We were there setting up distribution centers and handing out water, MREs, tarps, bags of ice but mine was a little more unique. I had something that could help out in a different way.”

Winegarner knew there had to be a way to not let the milk go to waste and for someone to be able to use it especially after a natural disaster.

“I had no way of storing milk whatsoever,” Winegarner said. “But I had to pump because I had to keep my supply up so I could provide for my daughter when I got back. She was at home going through my freezer stash. I didn’t want my stash to plummet and not be able to pick up where we left off. We made a Dollar General run, bought a cooler and we had ice on hand, I pumped and was storing milk in water bottles because I had nothing else. I knew it would only be good for 72 hours max in a cooler. Breast milk is considered liquid gold and I couldn’t stand to just dump it out. So I took to Facebook and there is a page called ‘Human Milk 4 Human Babies’ and every state has one. So I joined the Louisiana page and posted where I was at the time, that I was looking to donate, what my circumstances were, that I was away from my daughter. I think is was our third stop where we were stationed that a grandmother was in the area.”

After posting to social media, a grandmother responded to Winegarner that her granddaughter was in need of the milk. They were able to meet up twice and Winegarner was able to donate just over 120 ounces. She says they still stay in touch.

“I actually talked to the grandmother today,” Winegarner said. “We are now Facebook friends and I can actually watch the baby grow now. It’s pretty heartwarming. I never expected anything from this. Mothers do this every day. There are Facebook pages where you see listings for it and there are lifelong donors, short-term donors. Moms to this every day. It just so happened that I was in the right place at the right time after this natural disaster.”

Winegarner hopes this encourages others to step out of their comfort zone and “empower mothers to step-up and fulfill the need in any and all circumstances.”

“Breastfeeding is difficult as it is,” Winegarner said. “Being able to do this, I’ll be able to look back on days I am struggling and know I made a difference. The one thing I want to come from this story is mothers supporting mothers. Like I said, mothers do this every day and it goes unnoticed. There is a stigma that goes along with breastfeeding and pumping and many mothers are very uncomfortable to do it and talk about it. I want them to be able to do the amazing things a woman’s body can and is supposed to do.”

The activated citizen-airmen and soldiers have since returned to their home stations, but Winegarner says it’s an experience she will never forget.

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