Team Patriot Veterans Bless Tornado-Devastated Tennessee

March 18, 2020 • United States
Marine Sergeant Robert Bogus presents a Bible and also a chainsaw-cut cross to homeowners Christy and Travis Autry.
Marine Sergeant Robert Bogus presents a Bible and also a chainsaw-cut cross to homeowners Christy and Travis Autry.

Operation Heal Our Patriots couples responded with Team Patriot in Nashville after a deadly series of tornadoes left behind wrecked lives and homes.

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Christy Autry described the dark early morning hours in her Nashville neighborhood after power was knocked out by a March 3 tornado: flashlight beams and people wandering and shouting for loved ones. And, of course, no one slept.

Veterans' spouses and even their teenage children joined in relief efforts with Team Patriot.

Veterans’ spouses and even their older children joined in relief efforts with Team Patriot.

When the sun rose, she could finally see the devastation caused by a powerful twister that struck her community just hours before. She said the property surrounding her Nashville home was filled with trash and the debris from ripped apart trees. She was thankful she and her husband Travis were still alive.

“God protected us. It wasn’t our time,” she said, describing the dangers that surrounded them that night, in particular a large pine tree that had been leaning toward their home for years. Miraculously, the tornado toppled the tree away from the house, sparing Christy, Travis, and their three dogs as they huddled in their hallway. “I’d been afraid of it all these years. We’ve commented many times that if it ever fell it’d kill us. It was a huge pine tree. You couldn’t even see to the top it.”

The tree spanned the length of their backyard and overwhelmed the Autrys with the prospect of removing it. But, then a group of Operation Heal Our Patriots volunteers arrived at the Autry house last week as part of our Team Patriot disaster relief project. These wounded military veterans and their spouses, and, in some cases, their teenaged kids, helped the Autrys remove the monstrous tree log by log.

Our Team Patriot volunteers were among several thousand Samaritan’s Purse volunteers serving in Middle Tennessee after numerous deadly twisters struck a devastating blow to communities in the region. We immediately deployed disaster relief units to the area, eventually sending volunteers out from three sites in Nashville, Mt. Juliet, and Cookeville.

Wounded Veterans Serving Hurting Survivors

Marine Sergeant Robert Bogus said it became apparent that the Autrys’ property meant more to them than just a place to call home. As they worked in Jesus’ Name providing labor that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars, Robert says they realized they were also restoring hope and salvaging memories for the couple.

Marine Sergeant Robert Bogus cut the log of a cherished magnolia tree into the shape of a rugged cross.

Marine Sergeant Robert Bogus cut the log of a cherished magnolia tree into the shape of a rugged cross.

He learned, in particular, the significance of a cherished magnolia tree. Christy’s brother, who passed away not long ago, had helped her plant that tree and the rest of her yard and garden. Sadly, after the tornado, the magnolia had to be cut down by the power company to make room for new power lines.

“When we first met her, she told us that they cut down the magnolia tree,” Robert said. “She was very upset about it, but she knew that it had to be removed for the greater good of the neighborhood.”

As volunteers began to remove the tree from Christy’s yard, Robert used his chainsaw skills to honor the memory of her brother and to remind the Autrys of Christ’s love for them. He transformed part of the magnolia into a rugged cross.

“I wanted it to be a reminder to her that Christ said He will never leave us or forsake us,” Robert said.

Tennessee was Robert’s fourth deployment with Team Patriot since the project began last fall. He said that leaving the Marine Corps had left a void in his life. At times, he said, he wasn’t sure there was any purpose for an injured Marine.

“When I had to resign from working in the field, I was searching for purpose. For many years I’ve been searching for purpose,” said Robert, who was injured by an improvised explosive device in 2005 in Iraq. Doctors said he might not walk again. Now he’s able to walk and to help people facing trauma after disasters. “The part that I miss about the military is the camaraderie. And we have that here. But, most of all, we’re serving in the Name of Jesus Christ.”

During our deployment, which is expected to finish this week, 12 Team Patriot volunteers joined the efforts in Tennessee. About 6,000 Samaritan’s Purse volunteers have worked on 460 homes. Praise God that we, in partnership with Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains, have seen 32 individuals pray to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Christy said she still can’t believe so many volunteers showed up at her house to help.

“I’m just amazed. I’m just amazed,” she said. “It’s been a blessing that people will show up for people they don’t even know and work as hard they’ve worked just to help us.”

Please continue to pray for the homeowners in Middle Tennessee who are still hurting after so much loss.

More than 6,000 volunteers, including 12 Team Patriot volunteers, helped homeowners in Middle Tennessee.

More than 6,000 volunteers, including 12 Team Patriot volunteers, helped homeowners in Middle Tennessee.

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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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