CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- More than 500 volunteers including Soldiers, their families and other community members worked in various areas of Clarksville, May 7 in an effort to help restore their community after the worst flooding in 50 years.

Instead of enjoying a long three-day weekend, the volunteers chose to join Clarksville residents and city officials as they began the arduous task of cleaning up their city and re-building their lives.

Pushing wheelbarrows, picking up trash and spraying down debris covered equipment were just some of the jobs volunteers started.

Lt. Col. Alan Shorey, commander of the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, arrived with 60 of his Soldiers, ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

"I didn't want to put any pressure on my guys to volunteer. I wanted them to do this because it felt right for them to do so," Shorey said.

Shorey said they spent time in the Willow bend subdivision of Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, where they helped an elderly couple.

"The man had suffered four by-passes over the years, and was trying to do all of the work at his house by himself, and he wasn't too sure about us. But when he realized that we were serious in our intent to help, it really took a weight off his shoulders," he said. "I've been a resident of Clarksville for about 10 years, and I felt this was a great opportunity to give back to the community that has been good to us."

One of the businesses focused on was a Clarksville hardware store on the bank of the Cumberland River that was particularly hit hard by the flood.

"I'm a mechanic so right now we are trying to get their lawnmowers cleaned up, dried off and running again," said Staff Sgt. Reginald King, a mechanic with Headquarters and Supply Company, 101st Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. "I'm just out here to get everybody reestablished and to help get Clarksville back up and running."

The water inside the building had peaked at least 48 inches before it started to flow back into the river.

"We have enough work here to keep 100 people, even 1,000 people busy today," said Joni Covington, hardware store owner.

"A lot of the merchandise we will be able to save, but a lot of stuff will have to be thrown away," said Covington. "Without the help, I don't know what I would do."

The store lost a lot merchandise, but could have lost a lot more if it weren't for the volunteers, she said.

"I volunteered today to do whatever I could to help out some of these people affected by the flood," said Sgt. James Hamiliton, Charlie Company, 101st Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. "It's hard to believe how much the river flooded and how many businesses were hit."

The record-breaking storm that caused the flooding dumped 13 inches of rain within 48 hours and killed at least 29 people throughout three states by either tornadoes or flooding. The Cumberland River topped out at 51.9 feet, 12 feet above the flood stage and the highest it's reached since 1937.

Staff Sgt. Mylene Lyons, a native of the Philippines, is no stranger to the devastating effects of heavy flooding. She was among the first to raise her hand and volunteer to be part of the flood relief. Lyons said every year, during the months of June through September, Philippine residents brace for the flood season.

"Since we're here and not on deployment, this is going to be the best thing for us to help other people who've suffered this type of calamity," said Lyons, who is assigned to the 227th Quartermaster Supply Company, 106th Transportation Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. "This is normal for me back home, and we never really get so much help. That DONSA is for this event, and I felt I should be here."

Lyons and her Soldier, Spc. Jennifer Isbell, were part of the team of more than 300 Soldiers working along Riverside Drive, where flood waters from the Cumberland River were slowly beginning to recede. The walkways along the Marina were still covered with murky, brown water, as only the tops of the light poles were visible to the public.

Isbell, who said she has been assigned to Fort Campbell for almost three years, said she has never been in a flood.

"It's crazy, I didn't know what to expect," she said.

What she got was a lot of work and muddy clothes. "That's why I wore old stuff", she said.

Isbell said she frequented many of the establishments on Riverside Drive. She also said she lives off-post, but her home was spared from the flood. Unlike Lyons, she said she has never been in a flood. "I just like helping out other people. I know if my place got flooded, I would want someone to come help me."

Cool temperatures and a bright, sunny day did nothing to hide the flood's devastation: many of the businesses along the drive sustained heavy water damage. Brown muck and soot covered the once black-top drive on the main roads. Barricades blocked many entries onto the drive; the only way to gain access to Riverside Drive was through an official pass authorized by the city of Clarksville.

Spc. Scott Hill, a fuel supply specialist with the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, said the Soldier's actions spoke to the Army's value selfless service.

"People are coming out here and giving a helping hand, doing whatever they can," he said. "It's another part of our duty. We don't just go overseas and do battle; we have to take care of our people at home too."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16