Commentary by: Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, Texas State Guard Public Affairs
KATY, Texas - When townspeople learned that thousands of service men and women were passing through Katy and using Katy High School as a staging area before deploying to areas flooded by Hurricane Harvey, local people began showing up to help any way they could.
Individuals drove up with hastily collected supplies of water, Gatorade, toiletries, snacks and other sundries. Local restaurants brought hot food to serve to the troops, including breakfast kolaches, barbecue, gumbo, shrimp Alfredo, chicken breasts and hamburgers. It was amazing!
Within days, a constant stream of cars pulling up to the school entry had delivered a significant amount of supplies into the school lobby. Like so many other Texans, everyone was pulling together to help their families, friends and complete strangers. Some of these generous people were helping others even though they too had property flooded and destroyed by the storm. Their charity and generosity was truly humbling. Word quickly spread that some Soldiers were sleeping on the floors in the hallways of the school. Scores of pillows, blankets, air mattresses and air pumps appeared in a few hours. The extra comfort for the service members was much appreciated.
Dozens of volunteers even arrived to help distribute and organize the donation efforts. They also compiled lists of the specific needs of the service members staged there. Many deployed units were at the high school only for a short time before moving out to their next assignment. As troops cycled through, these strangers replenished their supplies from the donations that kept coming in.
During a break, two Texas State Guardsmen went to a barbershop to get a trim as their hair had grown out during deployment. While they waited, another customer paid for both of them to have haircuts without them knowing. She approached the two Service Members, shook their hands and thanked them for the work we were doing.
Later, some other Texas State Guardsmen joined a Texas National Guardsman for dinner at one of the nearby restaurants that had recently re-opened. A grateful customer paid for our meal. He introduced himself and shared that his house had flooded with three or four inches of water. Despite his loss, he extended his generosity to them in appreciation of their efforts and those of other guardsmen who were helping his flood-stricken neighborhood.
I was one of those Texas State Guardsman working in the field. To say the least, I was humbled by the compassion and generosity that strangers extended to us while many of them, themselves, and their neighbors were in such need. This is the spirit of Texas and Texans helping Texans indeed and for this I am proud.