We often times overlook the small things. Just a month before Hurricane Harvey delivered it’s devastating blow to the Texas Gulf Coast, we were glued to our televisions and social media outlets. There was nothing positive, just the media’s promotion of failing relationships across small pockets of our nation, That’s the way I saw it. Nothing positive- race this, race that, and the destruction of American history. However, as we Veterans know first-hand, once the dust settles at first contact there will exist a moment of clarity. A moment where every decision counts and where we can regain control and dominate any situation. That belief has been the driving element behind Alabama Veteran’s delivery to the Veterans Community- creating space in the community where we can deploy Veterans, keeping them engaged, purposeful, and making moves towards reaching their full potential.
For about a week prior to Harvey’s landfall, a large volunteer group from all four corners of the United States put down their phones, turned off the television and planned one of the largest first-responder efforts in national history, an all volunteer force of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans all bound for Texas. As this effort grew, Alabama Veteran and a second Veterans’ Service Organization, Team for Troops led by 1LT Jordan Thompson of the Army National Guard, became the first in the state to be asked to fall under the Southeastern Veterans Disaster Response Assembly bound for Texas. Alabama Veteran’s Motto- Everything Veteran withstood the pressure test and formed Task Force (TF) BAMA.
TF BAMA dispatched its first group under the command of President and Co-Founder Al Castillo, native of Houston, Texas and former member of elite U.S. Army light and Airborne Infantry units. TF BAMA’s advanced party departed September 1st, 2017 with one key objective: assess the real-time situation in order to best position the Task Force main body. With that guidance the team departed Hoover’s Ross Bridge community hauling much needed supplies, a bass boat, and a second vehicle in towing two industrial fuel pods- all donated by the Ross Bridge, Mountain Brook, and Homewood, Al Communities. Upon arrival, Castillo and his team quickly nailed down the plan and jumped into action. TF BAMA linked up with a second Veteran group out of Middle Kentucky and Louisiana’s own “Cajun Navy” and assessed the situation in real-time, as it wasn’t being reported. Under Castillo’s guidance TF BAMA was no longer bound for Houston. Rather, TF BAMA was to serve the under-privileged communities of Orange, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Vitor Texas. Each of these areas were still beneath water and with zero federal relief agencies in place.
TF BAMA spent the better part of it’s week, moving to the work- patrolling flooded communities by boat, navigating island apartments and subdivisions by foot, and delivering goods, food, and water to its residents. TF BAMA was doing what it could to lift the spirits of these communities left to figure it out on their own. As tough as it was to see these communities, destroyed, riddled with cars protruding from the waters edge, and displaced families left with nothing to return home to, Alabama Veteran maintained its warrior reserve. The team was there with one mission, one creed: Make A Difference. The situation seemed like one out of a post-apocalyptic survival story. TF BAMA eventually concluded it’s boat operations and transitioned into goods delivery and home restoration. The communities proved to be in a bind as crime skyrocketed and community members lost their trust in unfamiliar faces. Alabama Veteran made it a point to restore hope and we did through genuine acts of kindness, rolling up our sleeves and offering to prepare homes for restoration by pulling carpet, furniture, and floor paneling- all very tiring, but equally rewarding work.
Alabama Veteran concluded it’s mission in Vitor, Texas a small quite town designated as the levy flood outlet due to it’s proximity to the Neches River. Unbeknownst of the effect that controlled flooding would have on this town, Vitor just about ended up completely under water. It was amazing to see what just two days of controlled flooding and 1 days’ rest would do to a town. Our first shake with Vitor consisted of three major water crossings through under-water vehicle cadaver yards, rising flood waters, and witnessing community members trying to pull through as a community without help. Alabama Veteran could not have landed in a better area to assist. As unfortunate as this town’s dilemma was it’s controversial reputation as a Ku Klux Klan stronghold did not keep Alabama Veteran from making a difference where others wouldn’t. As you may recall in the beginning of this blog, thousands of Veterans descended on Texas as a unified front- no care for race, color, creed. religion, or gender. We were out simply restoring the example of what good will and faith among a people should look like- a genuine act of service to those in need regardless of barriers, opinion, or popular vote. This trip was the greatest example of the level of selfless service that lays within the heart of every Veteran.
TF BAMA ended its days in Texas with a one-stop household goods and immediate needs donation point and home restoration mission. We could not be any prouder of the level of support that we received for our mission at the pace that we did. The Alabama community’s reach across three states showed that we can very easily empower ourselves to keep moving forward as one community while others tear their own apart, but not only that….that our Veterans are here in the community and stand ready to put their skills and potential as once Freedom’s guardians to good use through acts of service to their community. Alabama Veteran to this day is the largest landing point in the state for Veterans to connect, engage, and seek assistance in making their next move following the service to civilian transition.
By the trip’s end Task Force BAMA had not just restored hope, helped people through restoring their homes and finding a way forward, we also provided support to over 600+ people across Texas’ Gulf Coast. That is 600+ people who will now look back to their visiting neighbors and Veterans of our the Crimson Tide and War Eagle state with joy, knowing that when they were down that we stepped away from the comfort of our lives to help.
No good blog should ever end without acknowledgements. Alabama Veteran would like to personally thank all of it’s private supporters and the communities of Hoover’s Ross Bridge, Homewood, and Mountainbrook, Al and organizations such as Alabama Power who assisted with operational expenses and donations of goods that made our mission a success. We would also like to thank Eureka Methodist Church of Lincoln, Al who donated high tow-capacity vehicles and a trailer’s worth of supplies and Rodgetta “Jett” Colvin of Queens Come Forth Ministries Inc. who donated a Bass Boat to Alabama Veteran.
Our mission, although well intended, was dependent on the support of goods, sponsorship, and the support of a community who believed in its Veterans and their will to be it’s community’s keeper. We were only able to operate and make the longstanding impact that we did with the community’s support- Thank you.
If you are interested or would like to know how you can help Alabama Veteran in the achievement of it’s mission, please do not hesitate to contact the team.
Chief Operations Officer: J.Chapman@AlabamaVeteran.org
Corporate Relations Officer: Alan.Cook@AlabamaVeteran.org
Chief Marketing Officer: C.Montz@AlabamaVeteran.org
We will be hosting an end of year, Veterans Day Golf Tournament benefiting Alabama Veteran on Sunday, November 12th 2017. If you or someone you know would like to sign up to play 18 Holes with a Vet with the chance of winning a 2018 Chevy Corvette from Hendricks Chevrolet of Hoover as a Hole in 1 Prize or would like to support the event, please click the link below to sign up.