Note: These Harvey posts are a bit long and lack grammatical fine tuning! I wanted to get these stories out for all our supporters before I forgot it all! Thanks for reading.
After pulling our boat out of the Wilcrest area, we moved a mile down to Westheimer to meet Jeff’s Houston SWAT buddy at the police staging area. As we pulled into the Target parking lot, I noticed four police cars marking off four corners of an area of pavement. My first thought was it was a helicopter landing zone. Then I noticed a Marine in cammie trousers, a green shirt, and a flak vest on. “I wonder if it is an air controller from Fourth Recon” I said to Jeff. “I wonder if they are going to drop in some boats.” We parked our boat and walked over to the SWAT vehicle, which was very similar to the MRAPs used in the War on Terror.
One section of the parking lot was filled with Houston Constable deputies, police, and volunteers. Large trucks were rolling in and dropping off rescued civilians to await transportation to shelters. Other cars came in dropping off food and water. Jeff saw his buddy Pat and a few other SWAT members and we all introduced ourselves. Jeff mentioned the SWAT member who had become quickly famous for the photograph of him carrying a woman and her baby out of flood waters. I had actually posted the photo on my Facebook and had seen it several other places.
“Yeah, that is Daryl Hudeck. He was actually asked to be on the Ellen show! We have all been ribbing him about it. He is actually right there,” one officer pointed. He dared Jeff, “Hey, go up to him and say ‘Hey are you Hudeck? Can I take a selfie with you?’ ” So Jeff walked over to him.
“Hey man, are you Hudeck?” I heard Jeff say, as we held back our laughter.
“Yeah, I am.”
“Can I take a selfie with you?” Hudeck immediately realized Jeff was put up to it and looked over at the group of us and saw Pat and his other buddies. Everyone started laughing. We all got a picture together and talked about some of the stories from the rescue efforts.
The Marine coordinating the landing zone was talking with the chief deputy and other leaders of the Precinct 5 Constable’s office. We decided to go meet him, both assuming he was an officer.
“Hey man, I’m Major Jeff Broaddus and this is Captain Wes Jagoe, we are both off-duty reserve Marines out here helping out,” Jeff said.
“Hi sir, I’m Lance Corporal Trey Beasley.” Jeff and I looked at each other with some shock.
“What unit are you with?” I asked.
“I’m with One-Twenty Three [First Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment] based out of Ellington Field.”
“Did ya’ll get activated?”
“No sir, I thought we would, but we didn’t. A few days ago I just decided to go out and help on my own. I was doing boat rescues for a couple days and have been hopping around town working with some friends of mine who run a helicopter tour company. They have been bringing in supplies and doing some aerial reconnaissance.”
Jeff and I were amazed. Here we have a Lance Corporal, been in the Marine Corps only a couple of years, landing helicopters for Houston first responders in a metropolitan shopping center parking lot. He was coordinating with police and rescue officials, securing landing zones, coordinating intelligence, and working out logistics. We found out later that a couple days before, he was conducting boat rescue in a neighborhood in Katy when he ended up at Creech Elementary School.
We found out later that a couple days before Trey was conducting boat rescue in a neighborhood in Katy when he ended up at Creech Elementary School. Other boaters were just dropping off people in the school parking lot, which was starting to flood as well. As people began to pour out of the flooded neighborhoods to the school, he realized they needed to get out of the rain and chill. One of the school officials was outside with the group. “I am about to bust open a window so I can get these people out of the rain,” Trey said to the official, who said it was okay with him. So he broke into the school and put all the people in the gym. As the water began entering the school, he coordinated to get around 150 people onto boats and evacuated from the school.
As we were cleaning up our boat and getting ready for more operations, Trey landed a small helicopter from Operation Wetspot, the group of tourist and charter helicopters that Trey had been working with. He passed them instructions from the Constable to do some area recon of the neighborhoods in the area. Meanwhile, a car drove up to our truck and a woman asked where she could find medical help.
“Excuse me, sir, I don’t know what happened. I just took a shower, now my body is covered,” the passenger said as she got out. Her body was covered in large sores.
“Were you in the flood waters?” I asked, curious if we had gotten mixed up in the same infected water.
“No sir, I just took a shower at my house.”
“Follow me, I’ll walk you over to the police and paramedics.” As she followed me she was reeling in pain.
“It hurts so bad.”
“May I pray for you as I walk?” I asked.
“Yes sir, thank you.”
As we walked and prayed, I held my hand behind her back in that natural praying posture. But I accidentally touched the back of her shirt. I could literally feel the sores through her shirt. After I handed her off, I booked it to the Target to wash really well. For the rest of the week, I was paranoid that I was going to either contract something from her or the flood waters (there were rumors of flesh-eating bacteria cases). (I got a Tetanus shot as soon as I got home).
A little bit later, Trey walked up to us. “We got a mission. They want us to go check out a neighborhood on the other side of Beltway 8.” He introduced the rest of his team to us, Hector and Josh. Hector is a former Army Combat Medic, so naturally, Jeff and I called him “Doc”. Josh was a young 18-year-old family friend of Trey’s. Josh was the non-veteran of the group, but he quickly picked up our lingo and fit right in. Of course, we ribbed him the entire time about getting to a recruiting station as soon as this was all over! We were also joined by Jon McCoy, who is a fellow Marine in the same unit as Jeff and I and a Sugarland Police Officer.
Some of the men we had linked up with the day before rejoined us, mostly veterans as well. One of which was a former Army Green Beret named Justin. They spent the day doing boat operations in another part of town. We loaded up an headed to Beltway 8/Sam Houston Toll Road (which was closed). After passing through a few road blocks, we reached a launch point along the feeder road. Some Constable patrol cars showed up and we walked over to talk to them. As we introduced ourselves, one looked familiar. We looked at each other and I looked at his name tag: KEMP. We immediately recognized who each other was. Ryan Kemp and I were in the same Marine company (at Second Assault Amphibian Battalion at Camp Lejeune) twice. The first was Delta Company where I was a new lieutenant doing on-the-job training. The second was in Bravo Company in Afghanistan. He was in the other platoon which we rarely saw. Small world and small Corps!
One of the officer’s said “there have been reports of a suspected looter in the area. Black male, white shirt, riding around in a small boat alone.” Jeff and I launched our boat and Justin and his group put their small john boat and jet ski in. Two officers got in the boat with us, and we took off into the neighborhood. The first part of the street had about 4-5 feet of water and had houses under water. The power was still on, even to the houses with water, which was a bit nerve-racking. Most of the neighborhood had only two or three feet in the road, but no water in the houses…yet. Thus some people had decided to stay in their homes. When our boats hit bottom, we all got out and began to patrol on foot. At this point, the sun had set and it was getting very dark. There were a few people coming out to see what was going on. One young man and his dog wanted to leave, so we put him in our boat and told him to wait there for a bit.
I went up to talk to a few people, just to reassure them we were working with the Constables and just checking out the neighborhood. I went out of my way to go up to some of the people and be very friendly. While we were with cops and ourselves looked like law enforcement, to a degree, though the people don’t necessarily know. I walked up to the first family:
“Hi, I’m Wes. I am a Marine Corps officer out here volunteering with the Houston Constables. Are ya’ll doing okay?”
“Yeah, we are fine. The water isn’t in the house yet. What is going on out here? Is there a problem out here?”
“Well, we just got word of a possible looter. Nothing to worry about, just a man riding in a boat by himself down the streets, which is a bit odd. There are families still in the houses up and down the street. There are Constable deputies right behind your house on the feeder road” I told them. I then showed them some pictures of the rescues across the Beltway to show them how high the water was. “Well ya’ll have a clear way to walk out through the yards if you need, but we’d be glad to take you. The water is rising and we don’t know when it will go down.”
Hector briskly walked up, “Sir, we might have the looter down the road. Beasley is down there.” I called on the radio to Jeff and Justin, who were both with the Constables. “We need PD down here, we have a possible on the suspect.” So I began to walk down the road with Hector. It was very dark and eerie at this point. Very quiet.
I called on the radio to Jeff and Justin, who were both with the Constables. “We need PD down here, we have a possible on the suspect.” I began to walk down the road with Hector. It was very dark, quite, and eerie at this point.
“Sir,” Hector loudly whispered. “I just wanted to let you know that I got your back.”
“I know you do Doc,” I replied. It was a line you’d hear in a movie. “We all got each other’s backs, it’s in our blood.” We had only met Trey and Hector a few hours earlier, but there was already an unspoken trust between all of us, particularly between the veterans.
I quickly walked down to Trey, who was talking to a homeowner.
“Sir, this man said he saw a man matching the description walking around down the street. But there is an African American family that lives down there as well.” I realized this could be not only a false alarm but pretty embarrassing. Jeff finally walked up and we started to walk down the road. We began hearing some yelling and screaming a block or two away. We could not tell if it was playful noises from kids or adults, or something more. We stood in the middle of the road and just listened, we all had our hands on our holstered pistols…just in case. Jeff and the Deputies walked around some of the properties to check in the yards, the found nothing. We walked back to the boats.
As we pulled out of the neighborhood, we passed a house whose entire family was out in the front yard, including the father sitting on the porch with a shotgun. Classic.
That evening we all split up and slept in different locations. I called Callie and Chris, a family who I knew through my sister. They had offered several times to help us out, so I took them up on it. When Jeff and I showed up about 11pm, they had fresh pizzas and wine ready for us. They were so hospitable and caring. Their kids were put into other rooms so we could each have our own room. Chris set up a kid’s jumping house blower to dry our boots overnight. Callie did our laundry. In the morning she said, “I washed them a few times because they smelled like gas.” The water we were in all was filled with fuel and other chemicals, we had no idea we smelled like that.
We woke up early and they had food and coffee for us. Their young son came out, snuggled in a blanket, to see us, the boats….and I think the guns. Our very short time with Callie and Chris was just a short, but a very sweet moment. It was the hospitality and love like that we shared with friends and total strangers that made the whole Harvey experience unforgettable.
About 6am (Thursday), Chris and Callie prayed for us and then we took off to meet up with the team once again.
Continued on Into Chaos (Part 3): Who’s In Charge?