The More Veterans Change, The More Veterans Stay The Same

The More Veterans Change, The More Veterans Stay The Same

December 01, 2017 1 Comment

By Roya Koczak, Jay H. Thames

My grandfather, Jesse Thames, was a World War II veteran of the Army Air Corps. He was deployed in the Japanese theater - and was faced with harrowing conditions that all veterans face when in combat. And like all veterans, those experiences would never fade.

When he came home to his wife and children in Texas in 1946, like all veterans of foreign wars, he was determined to re-integrate into society and live an idyllic American life that he so fiercely fought for in WWII. And that's what he had, but not for long.

 As he built his business and the community of Texas City, Texas, he was faced with a tragedy that would further alter the course of not only his life, but the lives of millions of others.   

On April 16th, 1947, two large French freighters - the Grandcamp and the High Flyer - were being loaded with ammonium nitrate. The Monsanto manufactured chemical was headed to France to fertilize the bombed out fields of France. The cargo, nor the ships, ever made it.

 A fire broke out in the holds, and the ship captain of the Grandcamp attempted to smother the fire by battening down the hatches. What happened next is the biggest explosion that has ever occurred on US soil, and the largest and deadliest man-made disaster in our history. Over 500 people that had gathered on the docks to watch the beautiful orange smoke plume into the sky were killed.  

 My grandfather was a mere mile away when the ship went up.  The explosion uprooted his office, and what happened next was almost unbelievable.  A tidal wave swept through town, and small arms ammunition, which were loaded in the ships hold, tore through the sky. Fires and explosions littered the landscape. A massive toxic cloud hovered over the city, choking some of the citizens to death.

No one was prepared for what happened that day.  But some were certainly more ready for action than any other - the veterans of WWII.  

My grandfather and several other veterans rushed to the harbor. They tried desperately to save lives, restore order, and save the city they called home.  My grandfather later described the scene as, "worse than anything I ever saw in WWII. The carnage was unprecedented".

The town of Texas City was grossly ill equipped to handle what occured that day, but the veterans that came to the aid of their fellow countrymen and community were ready.  Their service - once again - saved lives. 

When Hurricane Harvey swept through Houston just last month, the city and community within braced for the worst.  The worst is what they got.  77 people died due to the tragic storm, and over 15,000 homes were lost. The city was underwater for weeks, and there was very little people could do about it.

Once again, our distinguished veterans were the ones leading the rescue and recovery. Veterans of campaigns both old and new felt an intense drive to do something. Veterans from all over Texas and the nation dove headfirst into the destruction, saving lives and reuniting families the storm had ravaged. At this very moment, they’re still working to help people recover from Harvey.  The support they give, not only to the nation but to people, doesn’t end with their formal service. It continues as long as they breathe.

The heroism wasn't isolated to proximity either. Damon Mathews, a 20-year veteran of the Army and Marines, and native Texan, utilized his training and service to assist the rescue and recovery from his home in Northern California. Damon identified a natural disaster platform that was not being utilized, and is currently developing a modern replacement for future natural disaster operations. He was able to do this because he saw a need that his service trained him to fill.

The more veterans change, the more they stay the same. 

Again and again, veterans prove to be the unsung heroes of tragedy, both in and out of combat.  At home and abroad.  From near and far.  In person and digitally.

As a citizen of this great country, and someone who enjoys the freedom that our veterans provide, my deepest gratitude spans centuries. It goes back to our first military freedom fighters, and is strong today with our veterans returning home at this very moment. 

 Luckily for us who did not serve, only the names of our great servicemen and women have changed, because the heroic actions never have...



1 Response

David Westmoreland
David Westmoreland

December 04, 2017

I was in Texas City that faithful day and my father, a volunteer fireman lost his life in the explosion. To correct a some of the inaccurate statements, I would like to point out that the ammonium nitrate wasn’t manufactured at the Monsanto plant but was being stored and loaded onto the ship by the Texas City Terminal Railroad. The 500 spectators noted is not accurate, as about 571 people lost their lives most worked in the Monsanto plant, the docks, surrounding industry and many citizens in the town. There was a number of spectators that lost their lives. I never heard of the “massive toxic cloud” hovering over the city nor anyone that was overcome with that “toxic cloud.” There were many veterans from war that had settled in Texas City and undoubtedly did a magnificent job in rescue and keeping order. Some veterans were instrumental in preparing or assisting in making a disaster plan that the Texas City industries utilize today.

Leave a comment

Also in Rogue Dynamics

The Survival Tree
The Survival Tree

April 12, 2018

A lot of people have asked me about how they could increase their survivability in an active shooter situation. The reality is sometimes you can’t win and that’s something you should be training for. Train for the worst day of your life and hopefully when it happens it’s nowhere near the level you trained for. If you’re lucky, your preparations will have paid off. However, the reality that you should always keep in the worst case scenario box is that you will not win. Get comfortable with that monster and snuggle up. You’re going to be spending a lot of time together. When you understand and embrace the fear, it allows you to rationally respond. In some fortunate moments, you will recognize the monster you’ve become comfortable with.

Read More

Self Over Brand

March 15, 2018

I read somewhere recently that people put their faith in brands now over more traditional things.  Looking at my social media feeds and several news outlets this becomes very clear.  Not only do people get upset when they find out their favorite brands don’t fit their social expectations but they pay homage to brands for their personal successes.  Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the fact that brands are there for business but without the customer there is no brand.  Examining the idea of such things can be taboo but I like taboo so lets do this.

Read More

Changing your path

February 22, 2018

There was recently a statement that I read from former Facebook employee that said something to the lines of people are mistaking popularity for truth. Perhaps once upon a time this was for the most part true but the days of the popular opinion being accurate are gone. This leads both sides of an argument to utilize not only inaccurate data for decision making but readily gives the other side flaming arrows to fire back. Unfortunately along with the truth exiting stage left it took civility along for the trip. The study was abandoned for the cave by men and the hard choices are left to what will gain the individual the most digital likes. The currency of doing the right thing has dropped in value like a third world currency in the middle of a violent revolution.

Read More