COMMENTARY

Recovering from Harvey

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Seeing how citizens have responded to Hurricane Harvey should make all Texans proud.

This devastating storm had resulted in significant impact from Corpus Christi and Rockport, through Houston and onto Port Arthur. Harvey’s path laid bare our vulnerabilities left by such a vicious storm. But, it also revealed the innate goodness in the men and women who call Texas home.  

As a State Representative, I would have surely been involved in monitoring and assessing the damage to determine allocation of state resources. But this time, I had a unique perspective owed to my service as a Major in the Texas State Guard. I was activated, along with my colleagues, Representatives Phil King, Briscoe Cain and Cecile Bell. I serve on the floor of the House with each of them but our call to service in early September was special because of where and how we engaged our fellow Texans.

Our first stop was Camp Mabry in Austin. Here we began to reach out to our legislative colleagues who live in the impacted areas to offer assistance to their constituents. Sometimes it was in listening to requests for food and water; other times we heard the call for assistance with shelter logistics, or for setting up mobile field hospitals.

From there, we were assigned to Victoria, TX to assist with logistics of running a Point of Distribution Center, or POD. This mission put us directly in front of people whose lives were negatively impacted from the storm.  As cars would roll through, we helped distribute water, ice and supplies, so basic, yet so essential in helping Texans take the next steps in putting their lives back together. During this operation we were processing over 300 cars per hour. This storm spared no one based on their race, religion, income or education. They all needed help and were grateful for the unselfish acts of kindness exhibited from fellow Texans across the state.

The Texas State Guard is an all-volunteer military organization is made up of nearly 1,500 men and women dedicated to helping others in times of peril. The Guard assists in any disaster or event impacting communities whose resources do not allow them to perform comprehensive response and recovery. We are a force multiplier to local authorities and can only be activated by the Governor.

The Guard consists of a medical brigade of doctors, nurses, EMT’s and other health professionals; an engineering component whose professional talents averted several municipal catastrophes with water and wastewater consulting services; a maritime regiment whose men and women were on point to do boat rescues for days, saving thousands of lives. We also are the only component leading on the use of the Electronic Tracking Network (ETN), put in place following Hurricane Katrina to track families and pets evacuated to different shelters.

I witnessed first-hand the goodness of Texans, from volunteer citizens to trained first responders to the Red Cross, National Guard, FEMA, DPS, and yes, the Texas State Guard, working side by side to address difficult issues in difficult environments. I could not be more proud of everyone who went into the arena and made things happen.  

My Texas State Guard experience helps inform my decisions in the Texas Legislature about how we prepare and engage in natural disasters. Just because the wind and rain has stopped does not mean the impact of the storm is over. The recovery from Harvey will be long, in some cases difficult.  And, this much I know – we will always be ready, and we will always persevere to make our state the best it can be.  

State Representative Tony Dale is Vice Chairman of the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee and is a member of the Environmental Regulation Committee. He is Chairman of the Texas House Energy Caucus. He represents southwestern Williamson County, Cedar Park, Leander, Brushy Creek, and parts of Austin and Round Rock. He can be contacted at tony.dale@house.texas.gov.

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