When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Served

Sandee Niles

A family turns the tables on the disaster relief volunteers helping a community recover from March’s devastating tornadoes.

Adversity often brings people together. The toughest times can make strangers into teams, united in one battle. That happened during Operation Yazoo Roundup—Team Rubicon’s response to tornadoes in Goodman, MS, in March. 

Greyshirts were already on the ground in Goodman helping the community recover from the tornadoes, the weather forecast called for yet another round of severe weather. It would hit an already storm-weary northern Mississippi. While Greyshirts were tasked with roof tarping and sawyer work in the area, safety protocols dictated that our team have a storm shelter and evacuation plan identified in the event the weather made a turn for the worse. That plan was activated on the Wednesday of the operation: When tornado warnings sounded, the entire team moved to the local community college library basement. The basement is a hardened facility and is also available for members of the community.  

As the team descended the stairs to the basement, we were met with nervous faces and even more nervous children. After enduring the storm of the week prior, the community was well aware of what a tornado can do. A few of the folks asked about Team Rubicon—and why this army of grey had suddenly appeared in their shelter. We shared our mission and some personal stories of service, both military and volunteer. The longer we talked, the calmer everyone became. It’s my belief that the families just knew that we were there to help and took comfort from that fact. 

While sitting with our group, a 3-year-old girl came up to me and started talking and shaking my hand. Before I knew it, I was being led around the basement of the library and was the recipient of a first-rate tour of the facility. She showed me her favorite books and we talked about our favorite animals. Her mother and I shared some stories and eventually traded contact information. I gave the little girl a Team Rubicon flag and made her an honorary Greyshirt for being so brave during the whole event.  

Several days later, that girl’s father arrived at the church where we had our FOB, bearing venison burgers and all of the fixings for our team. He also promised that he would be back another day with grilled chicken. We were there to help his family and the community recover from a devastating tornado, yet they took from their own resources to serve us in return.  

The mission and the Greyshirts of Team Rubicon bring hope to communities and are examples of how complete strangers show love for one another even in times of great tragedy. For me, this was truly an example of that military motto: “one team…one fight.”

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