Harrison County

He was stationed in Gulfport during Katrina. Now he’s coming back with the Cajun Navy

Team Striker, a volunteer group of veterans from Texas, assists the Cajun Navy during rescue missions in Texas in the days after Hurricane Harvey.
Team Striker, a volunteer group of veterans from Texas, assists the Cajun Navy during rescue missions in Texas in the days after Hurricane Harvey. Courtesy David Harwell

They are the “second responders” from our neighboring state of Louisiana, and they are currently headed to South Mississippi.

The Cajun Navy, a volunteer group that helps those affected by disasters, has spent the last three weeks rescuing people in Texas from the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey. And one group of volunteers from the Cajun Navy will be making their way to Gulfport before heading to Florida to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which is expected to make landfall in Florida Saturday night or Sunday morning.

David Harwell is a member of Team Striker, a Texas-based group of veterans that has been assisting the Cajun Navy with rescue efforts in Texas. He said the damage he witnessed in Texas was “devastating.”

“We were down around Beaumont and Port Arthur area and we ran a couple of missions in and around Houston,” Harwell said. “We rescued people from roofs where the water was so high you couldn’t see the roofs, and we also rescued animals and helped evacuate people — it’s literally a devastated area.”

Civilians lending a hand

Harwell, who drives supplies for a hospice company in Tyler, Texas, when he’s not assisting in rescue missions, said technology helped to provide life-saving assistance in the days after Hurricane Harvey.

“The Cajun Navy has been using an app called Zello for a while,” he said. “It helped us to communicate on the private channels and we only lost communications a couple of times.”

The Zello app also allowed civilians to help with the rescue missions.

“A lot of different were helping us dispatch by using Zello, which provided some law and order,” Harwell said. “They were able to find the people that really needed help and we had resources in areas we had no idea we even had.”

Not his first storm

Harwell said Hurricane Harvey was not his first storm.

“I was stationed at the Seabee Base in Gulfport during Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “We helped with the cleanup effort in the aftermath.”

On late Sunday or Monday, he will return to Gulfport to meet up with other members of the Cajun Navy. He said his team will be at corner of U.S. 90 and U.S. 49.

“The biggest issue we are facing right now is funds for fuel since we are all volunteers and we are working out of our own pockets,” Harwell said. “You can make donations on the Cajun Navy’s Task Force Facebook page.”

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