A Louisiana Caretaker Turns the Tables on Greyshirts

Jamie Janovec

A Greyshirt reflects on how tarping a roof in Lake Charles changed her life for good.

As Ben, Steve, Sven, Emily, and I arrived at our first work order for Operation Crying Eagle-Calcasieu in Lake Charles, LA, and began to survey the roof, we could see the project was going to take us a couple of days. There were multiple holes, multiple angles, and a lot of roof to be tarped over. A giant hole on the left side of the roof was already tarped down, but yet there was still a lot of work to do.

Within moments of arriving Jung greeted us with a very warm welcome. Jung cares for her very smart, very sassy granddaughter Penelope, who is about two going on 16. (Penelope was shy at first but on the last working day she ran up to give us all hugs and kept saying “thank you.”) Jung also has four adorable pups, the newest of which she named “Hurricane” because she found him right after Hurricane Laura hit.

Greyshirts had much tarping to do on the Lake Charles home.

Maybe most important, Jung is the caretaker for the 84-year-old man who lives in the house. She chose not to evacuate during Hurricane Laura, she explained, because she knew he was not able to and did not want to leave him behind.

Each day we worked on each angle of the roof, and over the course of the three days, we probably used all different sizes of tarp. Ben, our strike team leader—who is very knowledgeable and also not afraid of heights—quickly got to work showing us the process of tarping and tacking the faring strips. Originally from Louisiana, Ben also taught us about the culture of the state. For instance, family is not necessarily defined by blood but by trust, he explained.

Every day working on that roof was a treat. Perhaps that’s in part because Jung made us a homemade meal for lunch each day and was very generous with the helpings. Each of those lunches also provided much education about the way of life down here in Lake Charles. We wanted to repay Jung’s generosity and thank her for making us like family over those days of tarping, so we bought her groceries and gas for her generator. This put her in tears and sent her cursing up a storm saying how blessed and thankful she was that we were there. But, as we saw it, that is just how Team Rubicon Gets Shit Done.

As we finished the house on day three, we pulled away knowing we were going to miss Jung, her spicy Cajun cooking, and her extra spicy character. Our lives were forever changed by this wonderful woman and true Louisiana caretaker.

Author Jamie Janovec at work on Jung’s roof.
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