Deputy Dhaliwal's humanitarian side shone bright during Hurricane Maria
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – Once the plane landed, Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal gathered his belongings and went to work.
Flanked by fellow members of the United Sikhs and Adrian Garcia, the current Harris County Precinct 2 commissioner, Dhaliwal took out his phone and began to record.
"We're in Puerto Rico right now," Dhaliwal said in a video posted to Facebook, capping a communitywide effort to deliver relief aid to the U.S. territory weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. "We're going to set up a base here and what we need is your support," Dhaliwal said, urging Houstonians and others to keep donating.
Back in Houston, Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Armando Aviles, Jr. smiled. Dhaliwal's arrival in Puerto Rico meant their plan worked. Aviles, whose family is from Puerto Rico, organized a drive for donations. Dhaliwal helped him get the goods shipped and delivered.
"If it wasn't for him, my family in Puerto Rico probably wouldn't have gotten the help they needed," Aviles said.
The deputies were close. Their relationship had grown over the years they had served together on street patrol.
"Me and Dhaliwal, we were close. We worked in the streets. We were friends. He knew my wife. He knows my kids," Aviles said.
That's why the pair worked together to get relief aid to Puerto Rico. Aviles said the idea came to him while he was watching news coverage following his shifts in post-Harvey Houston.
Initially, Aviles figured he had everything figured out.
"When Deputy Dhaliwal heard about what I was doing, he contacted me. I remember at first when he told me, 'Hey, brother, if you need my help, I can help you,' and I told him, 'Nah, I got this. Don't worry about it. I have this.' I was wrong," Aviles said with a chuckle.
After experiencing firsthand the logistical hiccups of organizing relief aid to a disaster-stricken community, Aviles picked up the phone.
"Called him back. 'Dhaliwal, I need your help.'"
According to Aviles, Dhaliwal's response was, "Don't worry about it. I have your back, brother."
Dhaliwal, along with the United Sikhs, shipped packages to Puerto Rico and distributed them. That's who Dhaliwal was.
The two men organized a donation drop-off in northwest Harris County in October 2017.
"There were citizens that showed up, people that we never met, and they showed up here. Didn't matter what race, religion you were. We all came together for a common cause and that was to help out humanity," Aviles said.
Helping humanity was in Dhaliwal's DNA, according to those who knew him best. It's how he lived his life -- helping others.
Aviles said Dhaliwal's death marks a rallying cry to build on his legacy.
"His legacy needs to live on," Aviles said. "He always told me, 'We look at the human race as one. Doesn't matter what religion you are or what background you come from. We're always here for each other.'"
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