Roanoke’s own Bill Hudson delivered!
Note from Dan: This was an email forwarded to me by Bill Hudson, a musician and regular reader of this blog.
By Gordon Soderberg
The Veterans Green Bus Driver
December 7, 2012: I’m sitting on the Veterans Green Bus in a parking lot in Rockaway, NY. I got here a month ago to assist Team Rubicon’s efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. They requested I bring the bus from Detroit to Chicago to pick up tools and crew members and drive them to New York. They asked me to do this because of my experience in establishing Forward Operating Bases for large scale disaster-relief efforts.
Arriving on Nov. 2 in Rockaway, the sand was piled 10 feet high in the streets and the people were just beginning to come back to find what was left of their former homes, and to begin the long hard work of removing the sand from their basements and the contents of their waterlogged houses.
The Veterans Green Bus was loaded with tools and supplies chosen for this type of work and a crew of six veterans. They immediately began working to help residence with the heavy work.
Team Rubicon USA is a national nonprofit that uses veterans to bridge the gap between the time natural disasters occur to when long-term recovery efforts and the organizations that run them come in. In this case it took a little over a month. This was the biggest recovery effort the organization has been involved with and why they called for the Veterans Green Bus.
Until Hurricane Sandy, Team Rubicon responded with region teams made of of 6 to 20 veterans and stayed in hotels, campgrounds or airport hangers to work from. The location and size of this event demanded that they scale up in numbers of veterans and be able to sustain their efforts on site for an extended period of time.
We brought with us everything we needed to accomplish the mission. Outdoor cooking gear, tools for 100 veterans to work with and generators power to operate tools, communications, heating systems and generators for hot water for cleaning hands and decontaminating equipment at the end of every workday.
The bus was converted into an office for communicating with volunteers on the ground and resources outside the recovery area. It was also home to the hard core volunteers who stayed every night to keep an eye of the increasing amount of supplies that was streaming in.
We were blessed to have several companies help us. Home Depot donated $50,000 for the tools; Palantir Technologies donated the use of their interactive battlefield awareness software which the veterans green bus members adapted to use for disaster relief.
This gave us a force multiplier to effectively identify homes and damage and the required tools and volunteers needed to accomplish the work. GoalZero donated massive amounts of their solar powered lights, cell phone chargers, refrigerators and battery packs so that we could keep fresh food on site for the crew and light our bus without having to start the engine at night.
We had everything we needed to do our job. But one thing was missing to be able to sustain our positive attitude and bring a little light to an otherwise dark and depressing situation. We had no music or the ability to make any.
I took the chance to make a call to Bill Hudson, a long time friend from my days in Slidell working to help the victims of hurricane Katrina. I knew if there was anyone who could get us a guitar it would be Bill and his network of musician friends. A simple request for a guitar went out and a few days later we received a beautiful Ovation Applause in a case and already in perfect tune.
One of our crew on the bus was from Montana, a wounded veteran of the war in Iraq who had spent his post-war years trying to find work in his hometown without any luck. He would make money by playing in a country band on the weekends. He heard about Team Rubicon and volunteered.
The only obstacle was that there are no planes trains or bus service in his hometown to get him back into action. In Salt Lake City there was a plane ticket waiting for him donated by Jet Blue — all he had to do was get there. So, like any former Army man he started marching. He walked for 10 miles carrying everything he needed to work with before getting picked up by a stranger.
When the guitar arrived his eye lit up like it was his first Christmas. He picked up the guitar and stated playing for the rest of the crew. His original songs were funny; his talent for playing was enjoyed by all. He helped people forget the hard work and the pain of shoveling sand day after day after day after day. He kept our spirits high and the songs gave us hope for a brighter day.
Over the past several weeks we have had the joy of music in camp and have been blessed with talented veterans who also craved the opportunity to play a guitar in the middle of a disaster zone. It was the single best gift we have received in the last month of gifts that have come our way for the work we do.
So thank you very much Bill Hudson and the friend of the Feel Good Tour. Your gift will keep on giving as the bus will be on duty bringing aid and comfort to those affected by natural disasters and the tools to rebuild for years to come.