While more than 150 Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard troops rushed to Moore, Okla. May 20 to help with the tornado relief effort, Spc. James Hamm watched local news coverage from his home in nearby Fort Sill.
According to the National Guard Bureau, 24 are confirmed dead, including 10 children from Plaza Towers Elementary School, where guardsmen used thermal imaging technology to search for survivors in the destroyed building.
“When they announced that it hit the elementary school, it really hit home for me,” Hamm told Army Times. “I’ve got a two-month-old at home and also an 11-year-old. It was one of those near and dear things.”
Hamm googled Moore, Okla. and found that the town was only 77 miles away, about an hour and a half’s drive from his home.
“That thing inside you just kind of stirred, to do something,” he said.
The following day, Hamm picked up six cases of water at Wal-Mart, then posted a call-out through the U.S Army W.T.F! moments Facebook page to let people know that he’d be bringing supplies to Moore that evening and that if they wanted to get involved, they could drop items off at the Fort Sill shoppette.
After he finished work — Hamm is a motor vehicle operator with the 15th Transportation Company, 100th Brigade Support Battalion, 75th Fires Brigade — he headed over to the shoppette, where he loaded up a donated 16 ft. trailer with water, diapers, other baby supplies and nonperishable food items.
Along with some other soldiers from his company, Hamm finally rolled into Moore around 10:30 p.m., where he was waved through a police blockade after explaining he was on his way to the Red Cross drop-off center at Home Depot.
“From what we could see, as dark as it was, it was pretty devastating,” Hamm said. “I’ve deployed to Afghanistan…and I didn’t see anything like I saw in Moore.”
The tornado hit around 3:15 p.m. CDT on May 20, with winds whipping up to 200 mph and with a base approximately one mile wide.
As of May 23, Hamm and his team had delivered more than 4,400 lbs. of supplies during his lunch hour and after work, posting updates through the U.S Army W.T.F! moments page.
“Soldier first, and humanitarian later,” he joked.“As long as people continue to bring things for me to take, I’ll take them.”