Harvey Devastated My Community, But It Reminded Me How Veterans Respond In A Time Of Need

Community
Volunteer rescue boats make their way into a flooded subdivision to rescue stranded residents as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Spring, Texas.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

A few months back, I visited with Bill Rausch, the executive director veterans nonprofit Got Your 6. I asked him about the mission of his organization and he put it very simply, “Veterans like serving. They want to continue to serve. We try to empower them do that.” I understood what he was saying back in his D.C. office, but his message really didn’t hit home until devastating hurricane floods affected our neighborhood this past week in Houston. Over the past four days, my husband, a Marine reservist, and I have been evacuating people who lost all their material possessions to Hurricane Harvey.


Allan JasterCourtesy photo

The rain started on Saturday. Schools and businesses shut down ahead of the event starting Friday. At the time, we thought all the fuss was just precautionary. Allan, my husband, was out of town but our house was as prepared as it could be. By Sunday, Houston’s reservoirs were starting to fill and my city was flooding badly under the torrential rains. Allan pulled into the driveway that afternoon from his trip and was out the door before I could make dinner because he wanted to help. My Marine didn’t go to a buddy’s house. He didn’t help someone who had called him. He just drove with a friend until they found flooded streets and literally waded into the murky water.

Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. Some rise to the challenge while other shrink. There were so many people who grew up in the area, had family close, or knew someone nearby who were helping. What amazed me most was the number of former military members who were stepping up for absolutely no reason except a desire to help the community and the skills to do to so.

On Sunday, a friend came to our house to sit out the storm since we were not flooding. The next day, she sensed that we wanted to go out and help. “Hey, I got the kids. Go,” she told us. With that, we donned wetsuits and drove toward the flood. After pulling a few families out of a flooded area, Allan told me he wanted to check on a few people that he had met the day prior. That group included a guy named “Coach.” Coach had a take-charge demeanor and was directing many of the boats and volunteers toward the families that were still there. I was in waist-deep water and Coach was on a walkway and we started chatting about coffee.

Courtesy photo

There was something about him. I have never been able to explain it to civilians, but you just know when you are talking to someone who served — it’s the secret handshake, the unspoken veteran password, something… different. Sure enough, Coach was retired after spending a significant amount of time in the sandbox with 5th Group. After we all revealed our “military selves,” Coach and I wasted no time in ganging up on Allan because he is a Marine. Coach spent the rest of the day pointing us and other groups of people toward those who needed or wanted help. He identified concerns for those staying: “If you have a phone the gal in number 223 needs to call her mom”; “That guy over there in #318 is out of medicine”; “The family that lives here moved up there and I bet they are probably ready to go, but they have pets.”

That night, we swam back in to check on a few elderly people and to bring Coach some fresh brewed coffee. I don’t think he’d slept in two days. Allan reminded him, “Coach – when you’re drinking that good coffee, remember it was made and delivered by a Marine.” He stayed until everyone in his section chose to leave. He walked out on his own. Luckily, we bumped into him late on Tuesday and were able to give him a lift to a shelter. Within minutes of arriving, he was helping others and some of our friends were already posting about “Coach” on Facebook.

The Jaster family with 'Coach'Courtesy photo

Coach was one of many who are still serving and living “The Soldier’s Creed” long after taking off the uniform. They are holding on to those values and doing more without recognition. We saw over 100 boats during the time we were wading or swimming to knock on doors, and, for the first three days, these were all volunteers. A lot of local boys, a lot of fishermen and hunters, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of people with just a sliver of ACU or digi-camo showing.

(DoD photo)

A 24-year-old soldier based at Fort Riley has been charged in federal court in Topeka with sending over social media instructions on how to make bombs triggered by cellphones, according to federal prosecutors in Kansas.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

Read More Show Less

Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

Walruses rest on an ice floe off Wrangel Island, part of the Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve in the Arctic Ocean (Itas-TASS/Yuri Smityuk via Getty Images)

In a kind of odd man-versus-nature moment, a Russian navy boat was attacked and sunk by a walrus during an expedition in the Arctic, the Barents Observer reported Monday.

Read More Show Less

The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.

Read More Show Less