Hunters and fishermen are some of the best folks on earth. Those who also served our country take that to an even higher level. We may not block the streets with masks and profane signs every time we disagree with something, but when folks are in need, we’ll show up to help.
Fletcher Sams, of Newnan, checks all three boxes. He hunts, he fishes, and Fletcher served in Iraq as an Army paratrooper. When the scope of the flooding in Texas during Hurricane Harvey became apparent, Fletcher felt a calling to help.
“They needed boats, and I had one,” Fletcher said.
He saw the images of people with boats like his rescuing flood victims in Texas, and Fletcher did not hesitate to hook up his Gator-Tail mud boat to his truck and head toward the disaster area to help.
Fletcher works for the Atlanta office of CARE, an international aid organization, and he was quickly granted permission to take time off to go help Hurricane Harvey victims. He is also on the Altamaha River Keeper Board and spends almost every weekend in his boat either fishing, hunting or enjoying and monitoring the waterways. His experiences in the outdoors, often duck hunting in shallow waters, gave him good skills and experience for running his boat in flood waters.
When he first arrived in Orange, Texas, Fletcher met a husband-and-wife police team. They were trying to get home after exhausting work during the early part of the flooding. After giving them a lift in his boat, the officers directed Fletcher to areas where he and his boat were needed immediately.
“Rescuing one person was often a domino effect,” Fletcher said.
Victims would tell him of others in need, and he would then go to them. In one of the most dramatic efforts, he rescued a couple with a 10-month-old child from the second floor of an apartment complex. They were getting ready to try to get to help by swimming with their child on a pool float.
The first day there, on Aug. 31, Fletcher said he rescued about 25 people. He went to a rally point where 911 calls were taken, and he would be given addresses to go to. He used two GPS units, one of which was a car unit with street addresses, to get where he and his boat were needed.
Posted by Fletcher Sams on Friday, September 1, 2017
Later that day, Fletcher had his boat trailered and was driving down I-10 to another area where his help was needed when he was flagged down by EMTs. An elderly couple nearby needed help immediately. Fletcher had to use an I-10 on-ramp to launch his boat.
While backing down the I-10 ramp, the trailer hit something and got up on one wheel in the current. The boat quickly swamped, and it was caught in the current. The power of the swift water started actually pulling the truck and trailer into the water, so Fletcher made the quick decision to jump out and cut the winch rope. His boat was lost.
“Although I lost my boat at the beginning of teal season, I would do it again in a second,” Fletcher said. “It was a life-changing experience.”
It’s people like Fletcher—Southern folks who probably wear camo often, men and women who aren’t portrayed favorably or thought of very highly by some people these days—these are folks who strangers in America can count on during times of need.
Hats off to Fletcher and his brothers and sisters who heeded the call.
Fletcher has more videos on his Facebook page of his efforts at https://www.facebook.com/fletcher.sams