As I walked through a newly developed and recently destroyed neighborhood in Vilonia, Ark., my mind tried to imagine how each home could have possibly been picked up, torn to pieces and set back down in piles of rubble, trees, mangled cars and personal belongings. After a tornado like this one, news agencies often compare the damage to a bomb going off, an apt comparison I thought to myself. But, amidst the horrible destruction I could see some resilience and hope.
I was there with Austin Elliot, one of our videographers and a convoy of vehicles full of Convoy of Hope volunteers who came to distribute rakes, totes, shovels, brooms, food, water and other relief supplies. The volunteers also began helping survivors and their friends and family sort through the piles of debris for meaningful belongings. The large white words on their blue shirts described their mission well, “CONVOY OF HOPE.”
As I walked with our volunteers and spoke with survivors, I couldn’t help but notice another sign of hope. American flags had been hung by survivors, volunteers and passersby all throughout the devastated area. It came as no surprise when nearly every family I spoke with had members serving our country in the armed forces.
A group of Convoy of Hope volunteers began helping Carol and her family clear debris from her grandchildren’s home. Her grandson, Daniel, gave his life to protect his daughter during the tornado. His heroism represented a lineage of family service to the United States of America.
“Danny Jr. was 31 years old and he was in the Airforce,” said Carol looking over the remaining concrete pad that she had helped to clear the last two days. “I think probably he was a mechanic on the airplanes because his Father Danny Sr. was too.”
After taking time to talk with Carol, Austin and I walked down what looked like a war-torn street and we met Neal and Lori. As we approached, they uncovered a neatly folded, triangular American flag from their cousin Josh’s completely destroyed home, with it came tears to Lori’s face. They explained that it was one of the few belongings that Josh had from his dad who served in the military.
“The last thing I pulled out was the flag,” said Neal. “The flag is what I fought for for 26 years and Josh’s dad did exactly the same thing.”
This Memorial Day weekend let’s remember heroes like Daniel, Josh’s Dad and the countless women and men who have selflessly served the freedom and hope we believe in.