A Hot Meal and a Survivor’s Story

Bob Obernier

Navy veteran and retired fire battalion chief Bob Obernier serves as the Region 4 Administrator for Team Rubicon.

On June 24, a gentleman came by the Incident Command Post to provide lunch for Team Rubicon members providing disaster relief to the residents of Wayne and Dixon Counties in Northeast Nebraska following twin tornado destruction on the afternoon of June 16. This gentleman was critically injured in the tornado that struck Wayne, NE last October which Team Rubicon also responded to with Operation: Husker Do. 

When I arrived to Wayne last year, this man’s story was the first one I heard. While driving into town after a business trip, he and a colleague unexpectedly drove right into the EF-4 tornado as it was crossing the highway. We followed his progress throughout the deployment.

Operation: Tough Town Incident Commander Bob Obernier was humbled by a local resident's generosity and story of survival.
Operation: Tough Town Incident Commander Bob Obernier was humbled by a local resident’s generosity and story of survival.

While we were having a fine lunch consisting of delicious homemade chili and cinnamon rolls (a local tradition), this man was asked to share his story and share it he did.

As the storm approached, the winds, rain and hail started to hit their vehicle, it became apparent that he to do something. He exited his vehicle and got in a roadside ditch. As the outer band of the tornado approached, he recalled becoming entangled in barbed wire. As he was in the eye of the tornado, he was struck by a flying dumpster. This was the last cognitive memory he had for several weeks. He suffered a massive head injury and several other significant bone and internal injuries. After two months of hospitalization and six months of rehab, he is almost fully recovered.

As I sat there with our team listening to this soft spoken man’s story, I couldn’t help but think here’s a man that Team Rubicon did not have direct contact with, who took time out of his schedule to provide a meal, share his story to perfect strangers, and express an appreciation for our work. I looked around and every member of our team was intently ‘eyes on’ this gentleman as he told his story and ate with us.

I also felt a sense of deep pride and humility for our members and Team Rubicon. From all over this great nation, they left what was going on in their personal lives to help those affected by this storm. These members, most of who served our country in time of war, experienced things that the general public doesn’t understand and are now serving again in helping victims of natural disaster. It’s a great feeling to know we’re making a positive difference. A difference not only affecting those needing assistance after a disaster, but to us who’ve served to protect the freedoms we hold so dear.

  • John Dunning

    Bob – it was both a pleasure and honor to meet you and the team. What a wonderful group to have lunch with, to share with, and to work alongside, each in our own ways as we help people through the chaos after a storm. You all are tops in my book!!

    • We appreciate you chiming in here, John. Can’t say thank you enough. You made a huge impact on our team in Nebraska.