“I hope the example I’ve set empowers mothers to step-up and fulfill the need in any and all circumstances.”

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Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner was one of nearly 500 members of the Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard who answered the call to provide emergency relief to those impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Winegarner, an air transportation non-commission officer with the 137th Special Operations Wing, felt compelled to volunteer even though she was still nursing her six-month-old daughter.

Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner
Credit: Oklahoma National Guard Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Mireille Merilice-Roberts

"I've deployed and have done several temporary duty assignments. I've never been able to help during a state of emergency," she said in a statement. "The people of Louisiana needed help and I wasn't going to let my breastfeeding needs hold me back."

On the ground in Louisiana, Winegarner was assigned to a distribution site where she and other guardsmen gave out food, water, and basic supplies.

Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner (center) helps distribute water to residents affected by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana
Credit: Photo Courtesy Staff Sgt. of Macey Winegarner

Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, she was able to pump and store almost 30 ounces a day. Unfortunately, she couldn't store it all.

"I couldn't bare the idea of dumping perfectly good breast milk," Winegarner recalled. "That's when I had the idea to donate."

So, she posted on a Facebook group that connects breast milk donors to mothers in need of supply. She immediately heard from mothers affected by Hurricane Ida.

"A grandmother found my post on Facebook and messaged me wanting to pick up my breast milk for her two-month-old granddaughter," Winegarner said.

The mother, affected by Hurricane Ida, had experienced a milk reduction and was only able to produce about four fluid ounces a day.

"She has had a hard time digesting formula," Allayah LeBlanc, the baby's mother, said in a news release. "We really appreciate her and cannot thank her enough for her donation."

In total, Winegarner donated nearly 120 fluid ounces of breast milk.

She said hopes her story will empower others to step outside of their comfort zone.

"The mission wasn't about me or my needs," Winegarner said. "I hope the example I've set empowers mothers to step-up and fulfill the need in any and all circumstances."