HAZARD, Ky. –
Soldiers of the 207th Engineer Company faced a challenge greater than they imagined as their part of Kentucky saw flooding that had not been seen in over a century July 28, 2022.
Many of their Soldiers are from Knott and Perry Counties, which saw the most damage from the floods and where the most lives were lost. Despite not losing any Soldiers, many had homes damaged or destroyed.
One of those Soldiers was Staff Sgt. David Hall, a wheeled vehicle mechanic for the 207th Engineers. Hall watched rushing flood waters rise and destroy the first story of his house from a hill behind his home which sits about 20 yards from Troublesome Creek.
“At first the rain didn’t concern me,” said Hall who has lived in the area his whole life. “When we moved into this house, they told us it would take 1000-year flood to touch our house. It had already been here for 31 years without any water touching it.”
Little did he know that a 1,000-year flood was on the horizon.
Hall works full time for the Guard at the Field Maintenance shop in Jackson, Ky., and he figured that he would probably need to get there since it had flooded in the past. As he was getting ready to head to the shop that is about a half hour away from his home, he received a disturbing call from one of his Soldiers that changed his plans.
“About two o'clock (AM) I went outside and looked and the water was higher than I had ever seen it,” said Hall. “But it still wasn't in my yard, so I thought we're probably okay. And then at about three, one of my Soldiers that lives nearby called me said he was trapped in his house. He said that he had a boat, but it didn’t have a motor and just needed me to bring a rope and I said, ‘Yeah, I got you’.”
But when he started to leave to find some rope, he noticed the water had reached the steps of his house and his attention immediately switched over to his family.
“That's when I was like, okay, this is way worse than it's ever been,” he said. “I turned around and told my wife, ‘Hey, go ahead and get the kids and the animals, get in the car and go to your mom's.”
As his wife started gathering up the, Hall left to find the rope and return quickly so he could go help his Soldier and then head to work.
But that didn’t happen.
“My neighbor was outside and I asked him if he had a rope,” said Hall. “He said, ‘yeah there's one in the back of the garage but I don't know if you can get to it.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I wasn’t even thinking that there would be water in his garage. So by that time, it was waist deep in his garage where the rope actually was.”
Hall waded through the water to the back of the garage, found the rope and headed back to his house.
“I ran back and actually beat my wife to my car before she got out. The road out was under water and I knew we were trapped and wouldn’t be able to get out to help him (Spc. Eastmon) and that was about the time the cell phones went down.”
Hall made the decision to just get in one car and head up the road to the hill behind his house. There, they continued to watch the water rise into their home. As he, his wife, two children, 5 and 12 years old, and a dog and a cat sat in the car, Hall started having concerns about a nearby power pole that was looking like it was going to fall. To avoid electrocution, he had his family got away from the power lines and walked up the hill till his neighbor saw them and offered up his home to them to some stay and get into dry clothes.
When they got there, the man’s wife said she had cell service, so Hall was able to make contact with his supervisor and let him know about the call he received from Spc. Eastmon and that he wasn’t able to get to him. His supervisor subsequently alerted the aviation facility back in Frankfort, Ky., which led to Eastman and his family later getting rescued by National Guard helicopters.
Despite Eastmon being rescued, Hall did not find that information out until a few days later. He was first told by a neighbor of the Eastman’s that they all had drowned. After having that weight put on him, the next day he was told by a fellow Soldier who also worked as a local policeman that the family was rescued and airlifted out of the waters.
Not long after getting off the neighbor’s phone talking with his supervisor and changing into dry clothes, the neighbor’s wife said that there was a woman and her two kids who were trapped in the second story of their house at the end of the street. Her husband was on the way home from a work trip to Louisville and had no idea that his family was in trouble.
That’s when Hall and the neighbor knew they had to help.
“We put our shoes back on and we went to go see what we could do,” Hall said. “As we walked toward the house, we saw a man, who turned out to be the husband’s brother, who had parked down near the highway and walked around the hillside. Both of us went over the mountain and walked around the ridge line over to their house to where the wife and the kids were. And at that point, I realized I still had the daggone rope from my neighbors garage with me. When we got to the house the current was moving so fast, I knew there wasn’t much we could do at that time.”
According to Hall, a state trooper used his radar gun and clocked it going 55 miles per hour.
With the water no longer rising, Hall, the neighbor, and the uncle of the family inside the home watched and waited until the water started to slow down and started receding before attempting to get them out.
As the water went down, the next fear for the group was that there was going to be something big in the water that could cause the situation to get worse.
“We were worried about stuff in the water,” Hall said. “Two blocks down from my house was a double wide trailer that came off the foundation, it hit my neighbor's house, knocked it off the foundation, and was coming at our house and luckily hit a tree hit a tree and spun it around and went on down ‘til it got dammed under a bridge.”
As day was breaking and more people arriving, they were able to procure a boat which they were able to hold, with the rope Hall had brought, against the bank where there wasn’t a current and walk it along the hillside to where they could get near where the woman and child were. After the woman tossed out a fire escape ladder, they were able to get the three into the boat and back to the shore safely.
No later after Hall got done there, he was called upon to help his community by his Guard unit.
“Later that Friday I received a message in our company’s leader chat that said they needed an E6 or above to go on State Active Duty (SAD) orders,” said Hall. “I figured since I couldn’t really do anything else to help my family and they were safe at my mother-in-laws house, I wanted to go to help.”
A decision that was met with a little push back from his wife.
“Going to do SAD missions is one of my favorite things about serving in the Guard,” said Hall. “I love being out in the community helping and making an impact and being face-to-face with people and to help them. I had already started to gather some things together and get a bag ready in case they wanted volunteers and my wife was like, ‘You don't need to go on state active duty’. I told her I understood her concern and I wouldn’t go unless they absolutely needed an E6 or above and they did.”
That next day, Hall left for Floyd County and was the liaison officer and the maintenance non-commissioned officer for the point of distribution site where victims affected by the flood could pick up supplies, food, and water.
He worked there for 5 days before getting to come back to Knott County where he knew he could be better suited to help since he knew the area so well.
“I’ve lived in Knott county my whole life and really wanted to get there as soon as I was done with Floyd County,” said Hall. “Myself and Spc. Keller got in our POVs and I went to the road that I knew that FMTV’s and other vehicles couldn't get to. I knew they couldn’t get trucks up their way back in the hollers so we just loaded our trucks out with water and cleaning supplies I just went around for two days pretty much everywhere I could think to go.”
He was on orders for 7 days since he couldn’t do much to his place until
FEMA assessed the damage to his house and the assessment to the house happened on the same day he was to get off SAD orders.
“It was perfect that FEMA came out that day and had assessed my house and at that point they're like, ‘okay you can start doing whatever you need to do,’ so I came off mission.”
Now Hall has half his house torn up and has to remodel, but he is thankful that he still has a home and that his family is safe.
Hall has enlisted the help of his father to help him with jobs around the house and help clear out the debris left behind. Debris piles that are considerably smaller than they were before he ran into a church group from Florida looking to help.
“They just happened to be I guess driving looking for people to help, and I was outside, and they stopped and talked to me asked what I needed,” said Hall. “I was like, ‘I need help with everything’. A couple of days later they had like seven people in here and they started ripping things out and clearing it away.”
His humble attitude is something to admire about Hall as is his willingness to help out when needed. He was directly responsible for helping save the lives of his neighbors and fellow Soldiers, but don’t tell him that.
“I just helped out where I knew I could help,” said Hall “I don't know about saving anybody, I just wanted to help out.”