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Operation: Midnight Train – Personal Reflection from Army Veteran Sean Blair

Sean Blair

Sean is an Army veteran from Region 4.

I have to say I had one of the best weekends of my life. The outpouring of support for Adairsville from the surrounding communities was incredible. Saturday we had around 1,600 people show up and I am guessing 700-800 on Sunday throughout the day. Many brought chainsaws among other equipment, and gave it everything they had. The residents  were very grateful for what we did, those who had already made other arrangements or had only minor damage were touched that we were there and offered to help. Then, Saturday night one of the churches cooked all of us Team Rubicon people an awesome meal of steak, baked potatoes, and bread pudding. It was all very physically, mentally and emotionally draining. After I gave my debriefing and prepped to leave three incredible things happened to me.

1. I was re-configuring my car for the 5 hour drive home when I keep hearing some kids fighting behind me. I kept hearing bits of it, so when I finished I turned around, and they were all looking at me and one boys comes up to me and says, “Thank you for saving our town.” A bit amused I gave them some of the pokey bait I was trying to get rid of (I kept the Redbull figuring their parents wouldn’t appreciate me giving that to them). But their eyes light up brighter than any kid overseas when we delivered humanitarian aid. I chatted with them for a few minutes heard their stories, told them mine, got the traditional my father/brother/cousin is in the Army/Navy/Air Force, and the “I want to be a soldier when I grow up.” Afterwards, I excused myself, got in my car and headed home.

2. Just outside of Cartersville, I pulled over to fuel up,  and across the island was some guy filling his tank also. He stepped across the island and asked me if I was one of the “Rubicon” guys, as I was still wearing the shirt I couldn’t say no. I stopped, turned towards him as he stuck out his hand to shake mine. He said “I heard you guys were here helping out and that you’re all ex-Army guys.”. I told him I was, but that Team Rubicon is made up of military and first responders, some current, some former. He continued to make small talk, and I got annoyed because I was really eager to get on the road, I vaguely noticed his wife stepping across the island toward us. As we shook hands again, he said, “Thank you for your continued service.” I turned back towards my pump and reached for my wallet but  saw that his wife had already put their card in and she told me that it was on them. I tried telling her that it really wasn’t necessary, but she said that she insisted. As they drove away, I noticed that the SUV had an Ontario license plate. This really struck something within me, wish I knew more of the story of why they were down here.

3. I hadn’t learned from before to change my shirt. I pulled into a Wafflehouse somewhere north of Augusta, sat down at a booth in the corner to keep my legs stretched and grab a quick bit to eat. A very pretty, young waitress, Lisa, came and dropped off silverware and got my order. She comes back a few minutes later and says “My manager told me you’re a Team Rubicon guy and that I was to keep you company and to comp your meal.”Not really sure what to say, I just looked at her for a second, then she saved me and asked, “So what is Team Rubicon?” I gave her the spiel about us being prior military and first responders, helping out in situations of need both domestically and internationally. I told Lisa about what Team Rubicon was doing up in Adairsville, hence the muddy jeans/shoes, and tree sap rings on my shirt. As another waitress brought me my food, Lisa excused herself to refill my drink that was 90% full. As I was finishing up she came and sat back down and as I finished my drink, she asked if I need anything else and I told her I really appreciated what she and her manager had done but I needed to hit the road, but I wanted to thank the manager before I left and she told me she had already gone. I told her to think her for me and left.

As I got back on the road, I thought about the free meals I had gotten as a soldier, the handshakes, beers, hugs from young and old women alike. That I understand, that I can see, the military has a history of respect and pride. But this was different, this took everything I had to keep myself together until I got home. To everyone in Adairsville, the Adairsville Church of God, the thousands of volunteers, especially the 80-90 that were on my teams, that managed themselves so well and, didn’t hurt themselves brought so much of their own equipment, the volunteers that feed everyone, and those who cooked the steak dinner Saturday, and all the other Team Rubicon team members and Team Rubicon donors, I want to thank you all for this opportunity.