Bravo Company "Broadswords" of the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion volunteered at Bastrop Emergency Management Center donation and distribution locations in Bastrop, Texas, Sept. 14 after wildfires devastated the community.

Roughly 38,089 acres were consumed in a single week as fires blazed through this central Texas town. Nearly 2,000 homes and lucrative lumber businesses, some dating back to the 1800s, were lost. More than 7,700 residents of Bastrop were displaced. Among the scores of volunteers responding to the situation were 19 Soldiers of the 201st MI Battalion. Although out "on pass," these volunteers wore their uniforms as a matter of unit identification and pride.

The Bravo Company volunteers arrived at the site of an established, functioning distribution center. As fast as volunteers could find a shelf for donated items, more arrived. When the Soldiers and other volunteers were finished, every item was sorted, labeled and palletized.

Having accomplished its mission at this distribution center, Bravo Company relocated to a second site. This one was filled to capacity with unsorted donations of clothes, linen, toys, shoes and furniture. Bastrop residents, including firefighters whose homes were lost in the wildfires, and Salvation Army volunteers, greeted the Soldiers, who quickly went to work sorting through a mound of shoes consisting of more than 1,000 mismatched pairs.

Besides shoes, the Broadswords also sorted several hundred bags and boxes of clothes, linens and toys. By the end of the day, Bravo Company had filled an entire trailer of an 18-wheeler with bags and boxes of sorted donations from floor to ceiling.

At the end of the day, Bravo Company's commander, Capt. Joshua Francis, and first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Danathan Melton, led their Soldier-volunteers in a moment of silent reflection.

"To see the progress we made and to hear volunteers who worked on site for the last couple of days tell us the site would have never looked so great without the help we provided made us feel like we had contributed something worthwhile," said Pfc. Shawn Noel.

Spc. Andrew Mulheren said, "It was nice to give back to a community that needed our help, especially one in a state I now call home."

The Soldiers said they intend to continue volunteering throughout San Antonio and the surrounding areas.

"I love helping people, letting people know we care about them and appreciate their support," said another Bravo Company Soldier, who previously helped with disaster relief in Louisiana. "This gives me a sense of pride in what I do and how I wear my uniform."

Page last updated Fri September 30th, 2011 at 14:48