ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- There are countless examples of people from all over the country stepping up to provide those affected by a spate of recent hurricanes. One of those who dropped everything to help is Derick Burton, a Procurement Systems Analyst at Army Contracting Command-Rock Island.
Burton, a former Soldier who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, Assault Command Post between 2000-2005, traveled to Houston to help two others he served with in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burton was in Houston Sept. 8-16, and said they worked long, physically demanding days.
The bulk of his time was spent at Codey Eichenour's house, a one-story ranch in which everything below four feet was damaged. Prior to Burton's arrival, Eichenour had sent his wife and four children -- including a two-week-old -- to El Paso to stay with family while he worked on recovery.
Burton timed his trip so that he was providing the maximum amount of help -- not too early, not too late. Eichenour had fans and dehumidifiers constantly running the week before Burton arrived, so they could focus on replacing insulation and drywall.
Burton said they showered every other day, as there was no working plumbing. On their non-shower days, they worked from 7 a.m. until 10 or 11 at night, but on shower days, they would wrap up around 5 or 6 p.m., eat, and then do some light work like rewiring electrical.
"In his neighborhood of like 300-400 homes, no one was there," said Burton. "It was [Codey] and maybe one guy down the street, but he didn't stay the night. It was like the Walking Dead down there. Everyone's house is empty, there were no people. It was super creepy and quiet."
Burton said he wasn't expecting to see house after house torn apart with ruined building materials, furniture and other items in piled in front yards awaiting removal. He said seeing the devastation first-hand kept him motivated throughout the week.
"People are really going to have to figure some things out," said Burton. This isn't just a couple of days recovery, this is weeks, if not months. I think his is going to probably take 6-8 weeks from start to when Codey can bring his family back and he's one of the quick ones."
Other than helping with sandbagging efforts during the Quad Cities flooding in 1993, this was Burton's first time helping out with relief efforts related to a natural disaster.
While he physically labored to help get the Eichenour's house back into a livable state, he also started a pay pal account for the Eichenours that people from their brigade and company donated to. Burton also said several co-workers at ACC-RI donated gift cards, cash, clothes and other specific items that family needed.
"A lot of people here gave, including some new interns who had only known me a week-and-a-half," said Burton. "Codey said he was very appreciative, and that everything that was donated was very much needed."
Volunteering to help his friend was a simple decision.
"I told my wife that if anything happened to us, those same people would be there to step up for us too," said Burton.
The experience also made him think about what he and his family need to do to be prepared for potential disasters.
"I started to realize how complacent and comfortable we are," said Burton. "I've already started talking to the kids about what to do, and get some contingency plans in place for likely things that could happen."
For more information on Ready Army, the nationwide, community based effort to increase emergency preparedness, please visit: http://www.acsim.army.mil/readyarmy/