Discovering Purpose in the Flood
By: Shannon W. Martin
Private First Class Barrett Besser was training for deployment overseas when Harvey dumped five feet of water and mud into his family home near Beaumont, Texas. Besser’s harrowing journey home to help his family, and the people he met along the way, reaffirmed his call to serve his fellow Americans as a serviceman in the Army National Guard.
As the hurricane came ashore, Besser’s Army squad leader gave the unit a four-day leave. Besser and two other servicemen, Private First Class Matt Droddy and Specialist Randy Toson, packed up every rescue item they could squeeze into their pick-up truck, including kayaks, food and water and headed home. “Our goal was to get home one last time before we were deployed, and maybe help some victims along the way,” Besser said.
But the men didn’t realize that Jefferson County had gotten more rain than any other county in Texas and the area was without water and sewage.
A Call Confirmed
Besser, Droddy and Toson didn’t anticipate how serious the conditions were until they were picked up on a fishing boat because the current was too swift for their kayaks to handle.
Besser’s interactions with the friendly volunteers on the boat was a turning point for him. “Seeing Americans pull together helping one another in a disaster like this put things into perspective for me. It made me realize if they could do this, I could go serve. Not because the Army told me to go, but for my fellow Americans.”
When the three men got to an area they recognized, they left the fishing boat behind to paddle into the city of Kountze. Once there, Toson stayed in town to assist the Cajun Navy while the other two servicemen continued on to find Droddy’s family. When the young men finally arrived in Droddy’s neighborhood, his family and neighbors were ecstatic to see them and receive the supplies they had brought. The two young men were the first folks make it into the area since the storm. Not even the first responders were able to get to Kountze because of all the flooding!
That night, Besser and Droddy’s spent the night with the family. The next morning, they made their way back into Kountze to pick up Toson before heading on to find Besser’s family in Beaumont. It was a journey they took by airboat, army boat, and even the bucket of a tractor.
Finally, Besser had the chance finally hug his family and say goodbye to the home where he was raised, the home in which his mother waged her courageous battle with cancer before finding her ultimate healing in Heaven.
“The home where my parents raised me was completely devastated,” Besser said.
But as Besser looked at the shambles of his family home, he realized that there were more important things for him to accomplish in life. He knew he needed to continue helping others by preparing for his upcoming deployment and focusing on what his country needed from him
And that is what he did.
A few weeks ago, Besser returned from almost a year overseas as an Army National Guardsman. A lot has changed since he fought through the floodwaters of Harvey to make it home one last time before deployment. He returns to a new house, and his father, the Rev. Robert Besser has remarried. His new bride is another United Methodist Pastor, the Rev. Alicia Coltzer Besser.
“I am so happy to be going home,” he said a few weeks before he boarded the plane back to America. It’s not the same people or the same house, but I am going home to people who love me and love each other.”