By Fabian Sandler
This is not the typical story about the attributes of a local business. This is a story about human beings helping human beings in a time of crisis.
Veterans know more about the limitations of mental and physical exertion. So too do first responders. They train on it, and even thrive on it. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have tested the limits of many, especially those of the civilian population. First responders have done a grand job of assisting those in need, and lately, so has a group of veterans, many of whom have been tested in battle, taking on and tackling the effects of Mother Nature.
Jim Sullivan, owner of Trinity Bay Tactical, is a veteran. After the ravages of Hurricane Harvey, he felt deeply that he should volunteer to be among those who help those in need. He put the word out for other veterans to come join him in his efforts. Many came, all participated.
“I heard there was a need for people to help protect the rescuers while they helped people,” Jim states. “The Cajun Navy had been shot at. Two different crews were robbed at gunpoint. That’s what we were doing mostly during Hurricane Harvey, providing support for the Cajun Navy. It evolved into the mission that we have currently. Our current mission statement is pretty simple: helping others in need.” He was among fifty people, armed with AR-15s, who provided support and security to the Cajun Navy in the communities of Vidor and Orange after Harvey ran amok.
The Cajun Navy is an ad-hoc group of private boat owners who assist in search and rescue missions in Louisiana and adjacent areas.
After Harvey, Jim reorganized and led a crew of eight to Florida to assist those in need after Hurricane Irma struck, not to provide security, but to deliver food, water and other supplies from the one hundred ten thousand square foot American Legion warehouse in Lake Wales, a town of about fifteen thousand, for those in that region who had gone without.
The crew took on other chores as situations arose. They ran across an elderly couple. The gentleman has stage 4 cancer and the lady has had brain tumors. “They needed what we first heard a couple of tarps because a tree had put a hole in their roof. When the crew got there, it wasn’t that the tree had put a hole in their roof. The entire roof had blown off. One of our teams got enough tarps, hammers, nails, and we covered their roof so now they are protected from the elements.”
Jim took on the responsibility of coordinating the multitude of tasks and assigned his crew accordingly. Jim pointed out that the small communities tended to be overlooked, while the larger, more affluent communities got much of the attention and assistance.
“There are a lot of people who want the glory. They want to go out there and pull security. The vets I worked with want to do the dirty work. They don’t want the glory. They want to go out there and help that person who lost their home. It’s not about the recognition. We just want to help people.”
The name of the group is the Lone Star Veterans Task Force. “This task force that we have started,” Jim says, “The people that I’m working with are all in agreement, this is something that we’re not going to just stop. We are looking to build this organization and be another of the organizations that help people in a disaster. I’ve got such a great team of people that have the types of talents that are just perfect for this kind of thing. Nine-tenths of us are military, we’re veterans, we understand the military structure, and that helps in situations like this. We had been told on numerous occasions by different agencies that we were the most organized team that they had seen out there. That had a lot to do with our military training.”
Jim says that the United States National Reserve Corps, based out of Alabama, has reached out to him. “That is the group that from the very beginning when we were going out to Irma, that has been lending aid to us so that we can lend aid to others. I have been approached to see if we can get something started in the State of Texas.” Jim is looking into that possibility.
“It’s been a very illuminating time working down here. I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity. I think everybody should be afforded the opportunity to give help to their fellow man, because it’s very humbling. What’s that saying? ‘I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.’”
During a time of crisis, Jim and his crew of veterans brought food and water to those who had none. They brought hope to those in despair. They performed above and beyond the call of duty. No medals were awarded, none sought. But these veterans, and the first responders, will be remembered for a long time to come.