By Kristin Christ
Last week, a record-breaking natural disaster hit Texas. As flood waters increased, our community dedication, and Texas spirit, rose higher. Everywhere, you saw neighbors aiding neighbors. The immediate call for help was to get people out of houses that were in danger of flooding. Rescue crews performed evacuations via boats and military grade vehicles. Once the flood waters started to recede, in came the requests for donation items. In the beginning, it was for food, water, and clothing. All were met with unprecedented, fulfilled, response. Next came cleanup: shovels, garbage bags, and bleach. Again, our community answered the call. Currently, neighbors are coordinating physical labor efforts, as people move their belongings to the curb. The destination of their, once valuable, home items is disposal. Thousands of meals have been sent all over our state. Thank you. Thank you, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and beyond, for caring for all those who have lost so much. I know many people have said it before, but when it comes to a natural disaster, we all put our politics, divisions, hatefulness, and race wars aside. When it came time to jump in a boat, no one asked if the driver was a Republican or Democrat. They also didn’t care about the color their skin, or what side of town they came from. At that time, we are all one nation of people, of the same human race.
And how about those intermediate boat captains? Some called them “red necks with boats,” and “good ole boys”. Never one to shy away from danger or a chance to help their neighbors, these rugged masters of the outdoors motored up to homes under water. Much like a fishing line, they reached their hand out and pulled back anyone who wanted refuge. Most of us praised them from the sidelines, while watching helplessly. The waters were too rough for us to tackle on our own. This was not a time we could type on our computer, make a speech, cook, or clean, to fix anything. It took the raw strength, grit, and rough terrain understanding that only true outdoorsmen had. There were many crews out there getting the job done. One such crew was led under the direction of John Edwards (Magnolia, MHS 2000) and Jesse Raub (Magnolia, MHS 1996). Others in their crew were Steve Scott (The Woodlands), Clint Green (Magnolia), Beau Sullivan (Conroe), Frank Requeno (Montgomery), John Hadley (Spring), and Cody Nicholson (Anderson). These men rescued hundreds of people, from Magnolia to Kingwood. When the waters began to rise, these guys knew their community would need help so they began talking about what equipment they had and who all they could get together. When they saw people in distress, Jesse posted to Facebook:
“If anyone in the magnolia area from woodland lakes to mill creek is needing help or rescue, post your number and address. I’ve got a small boat that can get the kids and small animals, may take a couple trips. We are blocked in a small area and limited with how far we can travel, but I hate to see someone in need or in danger. I can make it to the bridge in Tomball, oak hollow on 1488, and to mill creek bridge going towards 45. If anyone has called for help and can’t get any, post where you are.”
It wasn’t long before the group started receiving the call to action. A woman’s elderly father was stuck in his home in Magnolia. After rescuing him, a police officer asked them to help his wife, who was home pregnant needing evacuation. Before the end of the night, they went to 242. Commissioner Riley told John this was an area that was taking on water fast and people weren’t expecting it. The crew headed over there. There were about 6 streets and everyone needed help. They were taking people, and animals out of homes and to dry land (where efforts were coordinated to take them to shelter). They had three boats. Clint and John lost count after 59 people were rescued in their boat. The boats ran, non-stop, until all the people were rescued and secure. At about midnight, law enforcement asked for rescues to stop until daylight, for safety. The crews kept going for a few days. When asked what had the most impact on these men, Jesse stated, “People getting in your boats and breaking down. It’s a very humbling experience. We had some damage but these people lost everything and were depending on us. Some people were in shock and in tears. Some people were smiling and happy to get out. People didn’t know what hit them. Especially places like Kingwood where it came up so fast”. John added, “People didn’t want to leave their house and that was the toughest part. Knowing people needed to leave and water was coming in, and we couldn’t talk them into leaving”. One such story told was the crew coming upon a woman, whom they had attended Magnolia High with. They couldn’t convince her to leave, and she had kids in the house. John told her, “I graduated high school with you and I know you are smarter than that”. She replied that she wouldn’t leave but asked for the group to take her kids. She said, “Take good care of my kids. Take them to my mom. My daughter knows where she lives”. Reluctantly, without the mom, they took those kids to the grandmother’s house. They got a message from their classmate the next day saying, “Thank you so much, because the water came in our house, like you said.” Later, an elderly man standing in chest deep water, also refused their pleas for him to evacuate.
The Game Wardens were eventually able get out there with swift boats, and coordinated efforts. At this point, John and Jesse’s crew stopped performing rescues in the water and moved their efforts to getting supplies out by boat and to feeding volunteers, first responders, and their community.
Through their organization, Patriots of Texas, these men have already fed thousands. Patriots of Texas is an organization dedicated to “helping the lives of heroes”. They describe that heroes can be many people: first responders, vets, and dads. John, co-founder of the organization, said, “whoever your hero is, if they need help, we want to help them.” The organization got started when John was searching for someone to help a veteran whose house was, literally, caving in on him following a rain. He stated, “we found lots of foundations wanting to take veterans out fishing, or hunting, but none that would fix the problems facing them”. John, along with Wendall Schumann, started meeting with local elected officials, who supported their efforts, and community members. Many said they couldn’t accomplish their goals, which only fueled their desire to truly help heroes. Kevin Scroggins joined the organization and Patriots of Texas was born. For the vet in need, they bought him a house, furnished it, helped him start a business (which he still runs today), and gave him $6000. Soon after, they held a golf fundraiser and raised $120,000. This group of Patriots went on to help a local friend whose parents needed a car to get their mom back and forth to important doctor’s visits. Patriots sent out the call to help and S&B Towing answered it. They instructed the organization to look through their junk yard and find a car. Fittingly, they found a Jeep Patriot, fixed it up, and donated it to the family. The stories, like this are endless.
Regarding Hurricane Harvey’s disaster, Patriots of Texas are currently feeding thousands. Yesterday, 25 briskets were donated to the group. Owner of Bare Back Saloon in Spring, Dan Grant, allowed the organization to use his restaurant to prepare the meals. Lone Star Branding smoked the brisket and cut it up. Patriots delivered 1200 plates. 400 went to Constable Hill’s donation drive event, 200 to a church in Montgomery, and the rest went to Fire Departments all around Houston. Today, the crew is at it, again and just delivered 300 hot plates to River Plantation, a neighborhood in Montgomery County that was devastated by Harvey. The crews are staying there to help the community pull debris from their home. They will continue to do so until they are no longer needed. After that, they will see where duty calls them next.
Understandably, many are saying this group of men are heroes. People stretch their arms out to shake their hands, pat their backs, and say thank you. Neither Jesse, or John, want recognition. “I don’t feel like we’re heroes. We did what anyone would do,” John stated. Jesse added, “This goes deeper than us. This [response effort] is hundreds of people who love the outdoors, fishing and hunting, mudding… and that have boats, chainsaws, and trucks at their disposal. If you go out anywhere, right now, you have people walking through neighborhoods, up to houses, saying do ‘y’all need help?’ This is everyone coming together to love their neighbor. In the midst of disaster, there’s no race, or black and white, we all bleed the same color. Not one time did we show up to a house that people didn’t want to get into our boats”.
(left-right: Frank Requeno, John Hadley, John Edwards, Clint Richardson, Steve Scott, Jesse Raub)
If you want to learn more about Patriots of Texas, join their 2,200-member strong Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PatriotsofTexasOrg/ or email [email protected]. They will be having a fundraiser, in conjunction with Texans United for Freedom (TUFF) and the Lone Survivor Foundation, at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, November 10th and 11th.