Hurricane Laura made landfall early Thursday morning with sustained winds of 150 mph, wreaking havoc on much of the east Texas and Louisiana coastline and devastating the Louisiana city of Lake Charles, so far claiming the lives of at least 14 people.
Every death is a tragedy, but when we went to press it appeared as if the loss of life would be far lower than Hurricane Rita in 2005 or Hurricane Harvey in 2017, in part due to the storm downgrading from Category 4 to Category 1 after landfall, but also due to a successful evacuation plan.
“The storm surge and the powerful winds could have led to catastrophic deaths,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters Thursday morning. “We no doubt saved lives because of those evacuations.”
Yet while thousands of Texans in the path of Hurricane Laura were rightly seeking shelter or evacuating, Team Rubicon, an international disaster-relief organization founded in 2010 by post-9/11 war veterans, was headed toward the danger, ready to serve local residents in any way they can, including working alongside local agencies and governments to meet the needs of disaster victims.
Founded by former Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty after the massive Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that devastated Haiti, Team Rubicon has grown from eight to 80,000 volunteers — nearly 70% of whom are veterans — and has responded to some 300 disasters around the globe with humanitarian aid, including immediate rescue and relief operations, medical care and housing.
In addition to helping those in need, the organization serves as a vehicle to provide those who served in the military another chance to find meaning and purpose in service. As Wood told ESPN after learning he would receive the 2018 Pat Tillman Award for Service, “Since 2001, millions of Americans have answered their nation’s call to service, and my time in the Marine Corps was by no means different. Today, as a small part of Team Rubicon, I’m surrounded by these very same men and women — joined together on a team committed to serving others.”
Today, Team Rubicon volunteers are serving those communities hardest hit by Hurricane Laura, including Lake Charles. “We currently have 24 volunteers activated in Texas and Louisiana in response to Hurricane Laura,” William Porter, a U.S. Air Force veteran who works with Team Rubicon in their Dallas-based National Operations Center, told us Thursday.
Porter said Rubicon has deployed five “recon teams” on the ground near Lake Charles to assess the damage there and the needs of local residents. Those teams “make contact with local government officials and ascertain any unmet needs while also surveying any residential areas for damage.” For Team Rubicon, Porter explained, “it is really about trying to find the hardest hit areas with the most need ... then helping those locations as quickly as possible.”
In the days and weeks ahead, Team Rubicon will no doubt be helping the victims of Hurricane Laura in any way they can, putting their military training and expertise to use to save lives and bring relief to those suffering the most, just as they did in the wake of the tornado that hit Dallas last October and in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
All of this comes in addition to the help they’ve given to many thousands of Americans suffering or in need of assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. That help includes transportation, medicine and food under what Team Rubicon calls its “Neighbor Helping Neighbor” program.
This is an example others can follow, whether during a national disaster, public health crisis, or simply to help someone in your community you know is suffering and in need of assistance.
In an often cynical and divisive time, please join us in giving thanks for these heroes, these men and women who have chosen to serve our country, first in the military; and later, as civilians and veterans, saving American lives and providing care and compassion on the homefront in a time of great need.
In life there is a season for everything. There’s even a hurricane season. What our country always needs, particularly at this moment in our history, is a season of service.