James Redd-3

Story by MaryJane Mudd, American Red Cross
Photography by Mason Rankin, American Red Cross

James Redd is nothing if not an even-keeled problem-solver. After all, he served in the U.S. Military for 24 years as a flight medical technician, assisting doctors in the care of patients in a wide range of situations.

So when James saw water rising in front of his Houston area home in the early morning hours of Monday, April 18, he went the logical route: keep an eye on it. He placed a bottle of water at the edge of the water, which at that point, around 1 a.m., was up to the driveway, near the rear wheels of his pick up. “The bottle would help me determine how much and how fast the water was rising,” he explained.

The hours leading up to and after the water bottle idea were hectic. Rain came down in heavy sheets starting Saturday night. By midnight the street was flooded up to the curb. James called his wife, Natalie, who was visiting her parents’ home in Northeast Houston. “She likes to stay over there once in a while to keep her mother company. I told her not to worry about it—I was fine.”

About this time, marble to golf ball size hail battered James’ roof. The hail lasted several minutes, then the rain got even heavier. “This is when I got the water bottle idea. I put the bottle out there, told Natalie I was going to take a nap and check the bottle about 2 a.m. to see where the water level was.” At 2 a.m., the water was up to the lip of the front door. James went to the breaker box and turned all the breakers off. Between 2 and 4 a.m. on Monday water got up to about a foot in the house. “I knew then it was high time to bug out,” he said.

The water kept rising until around daylight Monday morning. Everyone on the street managed to get out safely, and James and his neighbors spent time watching the water rise—and for a period of time, recede—while he stayed in close touch with Natalie. Mid-morning he drove over to his in-laws and spent the day drying out and thinking about what had happened. Returning Tuesday morning, he found that his house had around two and a half feet of water inside at the flood’s peak. His home was nearly destroyed by the time the storms weakened on Tuesday afternoon.

When encouraged to speak about this experience or his time in the Military—including service during Desert Storm—he shrugged it off. “You know, hundreds of thousands of people have served our country and I’m just one of them,” said the father of four and grandfather of nine. Regarding helping neighbors during the flood, he commented “It wasn’t me who thought to get a boat and feed the elderly. I just helped out a bit.” Is he just modest? “Nope,” he confirmed. “I’m just low key. No big deal.”

After a few days “processing it all,” he contacted the American Red Cross. “A Red Cross Services to Armed Forces person called back immediately and guided us on how to get support.” This included connecting James with partners for food services, financial assistance and temporary housing. The Red Cross also helped navigate further assistance for veterans who experience significant flood damage.

“The American Red Cross offered steadfast support for the things I needed and moral support as well,” he reflected.

Odds are that this “low key” person of honor would have figured things out on his own, but it’s fortunate that the Red Cross was there to help.

Service to the Armed Forces

The Red Cross helps military members, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service. Emergency communications, training, support to wounded warriors and veterans, and access to community resources help an average of 150,000 military families and veterans annually. Click here for more information on how we can help: Supporting America’s Military & Veteran Families