In August of 2017 we deployed for the first time to the Houston area (Vidor and Beaumont to be exact) following the devastation that hurricane Harvey had inflicted. We were gone a total of six days, each filled with a tremendous amount of emotion and adrenaline. While there are many pictures and countless tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things we feel that these few instances below do a decent job of telling a portion of the story.
What We’ve Done
This is Bear. The poor guy was totally blind due to getting an infection in both eyes, but was still as happy and good natured as can be. He and his family were in the Vidor area (northeast of Houston) and all had to be evacuated as flooding ravaged nearly their entire town.
This beautiful pup is Bobo, Bear’s brother. During the evacuation he got so anxious that he tried to chew his way out of the metal crate and split the whole front of his snout open. They had to be transported a second time from the church that we were staying at to a makeshift shelter that was further away from the epicenter of the flooding (where we set up our supplies distribution center). Being locked in the cage for such a long period of time, he ended up going to the bathroom and was caked in poop, including all over his snout. Worried it may get further infected, we took him out, got him cleaned up, and got the open wound on his snout cleaned up and treated as best we could. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience but Bobo seemed far happier once it was over.
Here we have the pet collection point that was set up next to a shelter at a local community center. This is where Bobo and Bear ended up after their second evacuation. The hurricane brought with it extreme heat and humidity so everyone was worried the pets may overheat. It took some creativity from all the volunteers but we were able to fit all of the dogs in a small shaded area with a couple of industrial fans to keep cool air circulating through the tight quarters. As upsetting a sight as it was there was also great beauty in it: men, women, and children from the shelter (nearly all who had lost everything), were taking turns sitting with the pets so they always had a human nearby to keep them calm. At the point this picture was taken there were upwards of 40-50 animals in just this one small area.
One of the dog food caches at one of the pet collection points. We trucked in as much Pedigree as we could find. In addition to dropping some off at this stop, we also separated several large Pedigree bags into smaller portions and drove them through the flood waters to the evacuation site where the National Guard was evacuating people via helicopter. A bunch of pets were trapped there, so we tried to ensure that every dog had food to keep them fed before they could be evacuated via ground transport.
The supply distribution center that we set up outside one of the shelters. We estimated we had distributed 5-6 truckloads of goods (food, water, diapers, batteries, etc) by the time we were finished. With the help of social media we were able to get the word out across the town and had people driving in from nearby towns to pick up water and other necessities. The people running the shelter were extremely kind and allowed us to shower there that night. In that environment even something as simple as a shower is a game changer when it comes to morale. They even had hot water! Best. Shower. Ever.
This is the original crew: Six of us in total driving three trucks. The picture was taken at the end of one of our last days there. We linked up with an amazing group of locals and the owner of a local BBQ joint, the Honky Tonk, allowed us to use his restaurant to set up a massive hot meal station. There were roughly 20 of us in total and we estimate we were able to serve about 3000 FREE hot meals that day! And not just any hot meals, we’re talking smoked brisket, pulled pork, baked beans…the works. We also sent many of the meals back out to the front lines to ensure the line crews and other first responders we’re well fed. Having a hot meal in this type of environment can be game changing. By the end of the day, word had spread across the entire area, and the entire parking lot (which was huge) was full at one point. Seeing so many people from totally different backgrounds come together to help one another was incredibly inspiring.
The group of people we linked up with were absolutely exceptional. There are too many kind and generous people to name, but one gentleman who stands out is a Marine veteran who had recently lost everything in the flooding. Instead of hopping in line to receive a meal he took over and manned one of the grills for several hours on end without taking a single break!. Keep in mind this is a very hot grill here is no AC due to lack of power, and it is extremely hot and humid. Despite all of this he did all this with a smile on his face. It was truly an incredible act of selflessness that will stay in our minds for a long time to come. We salute you sir for continuing to serve our country even after active duty. Jarred Sanders, one of our officers and a fellow Marine veteran would say: ‘once a Marine, always a Marine.’
Here we have the spot where we launched our boat after driving through a mile or so of flood waters. We made it through moving water that was up to the hood of our trucks and just behind this picture it got extremely deep so we decided to put in. Fifteen minutes prior, while at the National Guard evacuation point, we learned of a family of four who were trapped on the second story of their home nearby; so, that is where we headed. Not too long after launching we ran aground and put a sizable hole in the bottom of the boat. With a damaged boat and not wanting to become a liability we decided to remain in the relatively shallow waters where the current was more forgiving. We scoured the area by wading next to the boat while searching for either people or pets that needed rescue. We also had two kayaks with us so we were able to send those ahead toward the families’ house to help any way we could. Luckily the family was rescued by another boat and everyone made is out safe. After searching the area for a while and helping another family get to dry land (the family cat fit perfectly in the kayak) we pulled out all three boats and drove back through the waters to the outskirts of the flood area.
Having just purchased the boat the day before we ran into a few challenges since we weren’t intricately familiar with the vessel or how to best operate it. This was also our first time launching a boat in a flood area so we learned some great lessons about how we can do it more efficiently and effectively next time around. It also highlighted the need for more capable and specialized equipment to allow us greater access to swifter waters where the majority of the high priority rescues calls were coming in from.
Tanner and Joe scouring the area for anyone or anything that may need help. Joe was definitely best prepared and looked very legit wearing his brightly colored waders. Lesson learned here: we need proper gear to ensure we don’t end up with our own injury or infection. In many areas, particularly the swift water areas, sewer pipes break or chemicals spill and create a very dangerous environment for anyone exposed to the water. Dry suits…check.