Recovering Sherry’s Keepsake

Mike Lee

Mike Lee, a native of Chicago, graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Creative Writing. At LMU, Mike developed international and domestic volunteer trips and served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Student Veterans Organization. Mike’s professional background is in advertising and marketing, and has experience in executing large print and digital campaigns for non-profit and tourism clients. He lives in Los Angeles where he thinks a lot about dogs, bourbon, and the Chicago Bears.

Wheels up, 0200. My first deployment out of Region 8 with Team Rubicon. I arrived at the FOB in the rain, having dropped my gear at the barracks. I checked in and immediately started sharpening chainsaws. The Ops Chief stopped by and gave my assignment for the morning. Bravo Team. Day one, exactly what I expected.

On the morning of day two, I realized the devastation and the job in front of us. And of course, the clay. If my boots had not been nine inches tall, I would’ve received an Arkansas pedicure complete with red clay exfoliation. I worked next to members from all different branches and all walks of life, dedicated to cleaning up a home site of a family we met the day before. It’s truly a sight to see. With a group of TR members and a fleet of wheelbarrows and shovels, we moved a house to the curb before noon.

Jesse Bucholtz, 10-year Air Force veteran,
Jesse Bucholtz, 10-year Air Force veteran, deployed on Operation: Rising Eagle to provide tornado relief in Faulkner County, Arkansas.

On day five, I met a homeowner named Sherry. She flagged me down from the backhoe at her neighbor’s house. She wanted to thank us for our selfless labor and helping the amazing people of Mayflower. She was looking for a single photo her husband had gotten her during a trip together. Her house was a pile of rubble, so I offered no promises other than we would look for it.

Sherry’s house had already been though the TR blender, otherwise known as the JCB JS240. Upon arriving at her house, volunteer TJ Porter took the delicate task of locating this photo. As I finally made it to that side of the house with the backhoe, TJ asked me to stop. He reached down and pulled the photo from the rubble. It was unharmed and the glass was unbroken. He held it above his head like a trophy, and it motivated the crew so much, we were able to clear her property by late afternoon.

At 1600, I called Sherry. I told her we were able to save her grandchildren’s toys and, finally, her beloved photo. She immediately drove to the site in tears. She could not believe her eyes when the team leader, Keegan, presented her the photo without a scratch.

Sherry and her husband dropped by the FOB to thank our team for recovering her beloved photo.
Sherry and her husband dropped by the FOB in Conway, AR to thank our team for recovering her beloved photo.

This is why Team Rubicon was there.We will muck out, clean up, and tear down homes, but we always do it with a smile on our face and pride in our hearts.

Written by 10-year Air Force veteran Jesse Bucholtz of Peyton, CO.