From Iniki to Ground Zero,
the Salvation Army is there
Two years after Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai in 1992, Joe Noland went back, and "person after person after person thanked me profusely for what the Salvation Army did," Noland recalls.
In New York, a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then-Salvation Army Eastern Territory Commander Noland was at Ground Zero when "an old fireman put his arms around me and said, 'You are the unsung heroes around here.'"
Noland later learned that the man was a retired fireman whose firefighter son died in the World Trade Center, and the father had vowed to stay there until his son's body was found.
"I can't tell you how humbling that was," said Noland, who retired from the international Christian organization in 2002 after 40 years.
Noland is in Honolulu for two weeks to visit his family and be the keynote speaker at the Salvation Army's annual awards luncheon Monday at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel in a talk about leading the rescue efforts in New York and on Kauai.
Noland recalled how amazed he was at the way Salvation Army volunteers and officers who lived on Kauai and lost their own homes or suffered damage "didn't give a second thought" to putting aside their personal needs and giving "all their energy and time into helping others."
"This was sacrificial service," he said.
A Kauai resident who died recently "left a very substantial bequest, based on what we did at Iniki," he added.
Noland, also an ordained minister, said he turns to God so he can cope with trauma and chaos.
"God raised the Salvation Army to be there (Ground Zero). We are a bit of heaven on Earth -- that's why we're here. The Lord gives us the wherewithal to do this; it's a spiritual calling. Some people can do it; some people can't," he said.
Noland is working on behalf of the 5,000 children who die in the United States every year of abuse and neglect -- "the other ground zero. ... It's an invisible tragedy."
Out of all the tragedy and chaos he's dealt with on disaster relief missions, Noland believes that "there is good."
"God is in control, and if we just serve him and fulfill our calling, sacrificially and honorably, he will take care of everything else. If we just serve the people, offer counseling and wash their feet (if need be), things take care of themselves.
"The Lord has blessed the Salvation Army immensely. We didn't have to have a fund-raiser drive or do any PR (public relations)," said Noland.