On Aug. 27, Hurricane Laura came in with a fury and left a swath of destruction that created havoc 70 miles inland to a small town called Leesville, Louisiana.
The destruction was overwhelming. No doubt, residents were in shock at the extent of the damages.
Two days after the storm, Patricia Sherwood of Orange, Texas, received a text from Joel Langham, an employee of Nissan North America in Decherd, wanting to know if she had damage.
“I live in southeast Texas, 10 miles from Louisiana,” Sherwood said.
Joel had seen the television coverage of the hurricane damages and he and others from Franklin County wanted to get a crew together to volunteer their help.
“I told him of my brothers in Leesville, Louisiana, and the devastation in that small town,” Sherwood said. “Two days later, here comes the ‘Tennessee Volunteers’ complete with their flag.”
The local crew drove 11 hours and volunteered their time, using up their vacation days to do so. They brought a skid steer, commercial chainsaws and several gallons of gas.
“I met them in Louisiana to show them where there was a need,” Sherwood said.
It was hot and miserable, but it did not stop the men.
“We were all amazed!” Sherwood said. “Impressive! After driving 11 hours that day, they jumped out of their trucks, gathered their equipment, and went to work.”
Working until dark, the crew cleaned out Sherwood’s brother’s yard so that equipment could be brought in.
“These guys were relentless in their zest to help hurricane victims,” Sherwood said. “The ‘Tennessee Volunteers’ brought their own cots and fans and stayed at my other brother’s house with no electricity.”
Some members of the Nissan crew slept on a screened-in porch while others slept outside. The heat remained oppressive.
“I want people in their community at home to know that these guys came down here to help,” Sherwood said. “I was astonished that they would just drop what they were doing and come to help during this hardship.”
Sherwood said that all the Louisiana residents were astounded and speechless also that anyone would be so giving without expecting anything in return.
“It was too good to be true,” Sherwood said. “But we Texans knew what the Tennessee Volunteers were capable of. Nearly a dozen properties were cleared by these ‘good Samaritans’ before they had to return to Tennessee. Everyone that was touched by these wonderful men will be forever grateful for their skill, strength and attitude.”
Those who helped include Nissan employees Joel Langham, David Banks, Tyler Banks, Mitch Durcholz and Swoape Tree Service employees Ralph Swoape and Josh Swoape.
“This story is a real testament to the character of these men,” Sherwood added. “These gentlemen came as strangers and left with a small community indebted to them. It’s a memory we will never forget.”