By Patrick BuffettJuly 29, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (July 28, 2016) -- "West Virginia is my home. It's where I grew up, and I have family and friends there. I will do everything I can to support them until they no longer need my help. Once I know they are safe and taken care of, I will be able to rest a little easier at night knowing I did my best."
Those are the words of Sgt. Bobby Cook, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade Soldier who recently returned from a voluntary humanitarian relief mission of sorts. He delivered over 10,000 pounds of water, hygiene products and nonperishable food to flood victims in White Sulfur Springs, Rainelle and Leslie -- the latter one being the town where his parents now reside. He credits part of the success of the trip to caring Team Lee individuals who didn't have to be asked to help.
"I just mentioned where I was going to a couple of battle buddies, and all of these donations were piled on my desk and in my office area the following day," said the 23-year-old healthcare specialist. The contributors included fellow QM Soldiers, the Liberty Chapel congregation, and assorted others in the community. "I think it speaks volumes about the character and quality of people in the brigade and across Fort Lee."
Describing the devastation he witnessed during the June 30 - July 10 trip, Cook said a lot of main roads had been washed out by the late-June floods. Many homes were destroyed by raging rivers of water. Power polls and vehicles were carried away in the deluge. Twenty-six individuals were killed, according to news reports that also described the weather event as a "once in a 1,000 year occurrence."
"Without a boat or 4-wheel drive, many people were stuck wherever they were when the flooding began," Cook further noted. "A lot of my family and friends lost everything; their homes were pushed off the foundations and torn apart by the water. One house (caught fire) before it was washed down a river that was once a roadway."
Cook hails from Quinwood, but said he decided to focus on the White Sulfur Springs area because it wasn't receiving as much aid at the time. A friend from high school, Levi Wells, and a battle buddy from Hawaii, Sgt. Seth Brown (Army National Guard), helped him haul and distribute the two trailer-loads of supplies.
"When we showed up to help, there was a noticeable sigh of relief," Cook recalled. "People were wet, hungry and afraid to drink the local water (due to contamination from broken lines). Tensions were high and reports of looting had been coming in due to limited supplies. After we rolled in with our trailers of clothes, food and clean drinking water, the townspeople seemed to relax a little. It's a very heartwarming feeling to make something like that happen."
Alluding to an earlier statement about sticking with it until help is no longer needed, Cook said he'll likely return to the area in the next week or two as his military duties and scheduled leave time permits. Whether he brings supplies or simply provides a helping hand wherever able to do so, he said he wants to be a part of getting friends and neighbors back on their feet.
"If I was in a similar situation, I really believe others would do the same thing for me," Cook concluded. "You don't idly stand by when people need help. That's the way I was raised and the type of positive values the Army has instilled in me."