Bob McKay sweats in the North Carolina sun and heat as he power saws through dozens of Hurricane Florence-felled trees with his sawyer partner. The homeowners’ yard is full of them making their driveway nearly impassable and a walk from their front door to the river their house faces dangerous. McKay says this is his eighth Team Rubicon operation and his fourth time leading a sawyer team.
“I usually deploy for two to three weeks on TR Ops,” he says. “The first one I ever did for TR was in West Virginia and called Country Roads. Each morning started with the John Denver song.” He grins, remembering.
But McKay says his first disaster response op was after Hurricane Katrina, before TR was founded. “I was sitting at home in Clarksville, Tennessee, and watching the news coverage of Katrina and thought I couldn’t just sit around with nothing happening. I had to help.” So he partnered with a Southern Baptist organization in Florida, though he is not Southern Baptist, and went for three weeks to help the clean up. He also deployed after Hurricane Rita with the same group.
One day though he saw Team Rubicon on the news and he thought, veterans are my thing, as he spent nine years in the Navy, and veterans doing disaster relief makes sense. “So I signed up and did the training, but it took almost a year to find an operation that fit into my schedule,” he says.
On one op McKay did in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, he found a homeless, four-pound puppy who had Parvovirus, a highly contagious intestinal or cardiac virus. “The Incident Commander was kind enough to care for the puppy while I was out on the op, and once I got the puppy home I took it to my vet where it was given antibiotics and a feeding tube,” McKay said. That dog, now named Hattie, survived, and now weighs 75 pounds. “It’s the best thing that has come out of Team Rubicon so far,” McKay says while grinning widely.
McKay, who earned an electrical engineering degree after his time in the Navy, and who has worked for General Electric and then for himself but is now retired, devotes a lot of time to TR trainings and going to ops. His sister, an Army nurse who served for 26 years, also deploys with TR and they deployed together on Operation Seymour Action in Wayne County, North Carolina in 2016.
“I’m amazed at how many friends I have made in a short time and they are really outstanding people and that keeps me coming back. TR’s people have positive attitudes and similar mindsets of personal sacrifice to help those in need.” And of course one of McKay’s sacrifices while on a TR op is being away from Hattie.