I know they say Virginia is for lovers, but Texas must be for veterans. I felt that way today when I worked with a group of Team Rubicon volunteers in the town of Lancaster, Texas. As we worked in that town it seemed every home had someone in it with a connection to the military. I felt like I was back in boot camp where I famously once noted that “The entire state of Texas must have signed up for the military with me”.
I met a man wearing a black t-shirt with the word “AIRBORNE” written enormously on the chest. I met a Seabee who was visiting his home while on leave from the west coast. And I met a gentlemen whose insurance adjusters worked for USAA (the military-friendly bank soldiers use), which led me to find out he was a retired Army Veteran. Just about everyone had a connection to the armed forces, and it felt good to be in a land like that.
We were originally told that personnel were not allowed to enter any of the towns that had been hit by the tornadoes on April 3rd. The reasons for just such a declaration were puzzling to our team, but we didn’t let that stop us. We spent the first 18 hours of the crisis working every connection we had in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. In the end it was a connection to the Home Depot Foundation that led us to the specific ground troops that were granted access to the towns of Forney, Lancaster, and Arlington.
That connection was all we needed to unleash the work-ethic of a dozen motivated veterans, a cameraman, and our gas-operated chainsaws. I wish I could say that we saved a hundred babies, or that we rescued a seeing-eye dog, but we didn’t. We walked into Lancaster and saw that the trees were gone, but the residents and houses remained; they were torn apart, but they remained. We covered the holes in roofs with tarps, we cleared debris from yards, we boarded up windows and doorways, and we chainsawed the heck out of some trees.
I have the pleasure of leading a group of men who needed absolutely nothing from me today. I didn’t yell at anyone, I didn’t have to scold anyone, I didn’t even have to coddle anyone. About all that was demanded from me today was that I kept people abreast of what we were doing across all of our work locations, and that I popped off a rude joke about every hour. Besides that, they team pretty much ran itself.
Maybe it’s because I am in Texas, or maybe it’s because most of these veterans are locals, but Operation: Lone Star doesn’t have an individual on it. We are all a team in Texas.
TR volunteers laying some tarp on a damaged roof.
TR assistant team leader Shane Valverde shows the tarp who’s boss.
TR thanks Miss Alice for letting us assist (and for letting us take up her yard and driveway for most of the day with our unofficial HQ).
Dirty and done. Time for some brisket and ice cold Lone Star.
Director of Personnel,Team Rubicon
Former USAF Pararescueman