By Cpl. Wayne Gooden, 4th Regiment PAO
I happened to look down at the floor and saw wet footprints on the church’s hardwood floors. I don’t know why, but I was a little shocked that someone was so wet inside the church.
I was part of a Texas State Guard shelter management team, assigned from 4th Regiment 3B, Texas State Guard. My normal job was on the command staff, but since I was mission trained and certified, I was placed in the capable hands of seasoned leadership to carry out my duty for the citizens of Texas.
Our first mission was to assist a church in Champions, Texas. The church had set up a shelter and requested support. We arrived to find church members and community volunteers accepting donations and feeding storm victims and first responders. There were several residents present when we arrived mid-morning. We assisted church leaders in managing the incoming donations, providing a secure presence and giving their leadership our support and expertise in shelter management.
I soon learned that the wet footprints belonged to a father who was running around making sure everyone in his family had dry clothes, a towel and a hot shower. The family had been forced to evacuate with just a trash bag of clothes as floodwaters rose in their subdivision.
A group of Army veterans, who had come from Austin with their boat to help fellow Texans, rescued the family, transporting them to a main road where a trash truck ultimately brought them to this church shelter. The truck drivers helped the father, mother, grandmother, son and daughter into the back of the truck.
I was humbled by the father’s strength of will. He did not complain but always had a smile. There he stood, wet feet, dripping water on the hardwood floor. Yet, he remained positive and hopeful. One church leader expressed condolences that the man had lost everything. “I didn’t lose everything,” the father replied. “I never lost hope.”
For seven days, our team performed several missions, and each time I found the people whose lives had been turned upside down giving me reassurance that they would be okay. I returned from my mission a better man, husband, father and soldier than when I left.