Two members of humanitarian relief group the Cajun Army have tied the knot after meeting during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Richard Gibbs, a Louisiana sheriff’s deputy, and Patricia Goddard, a Michigan accounting clerk, immediately noticed each other when they were assigned to the same relief effort in Texas.
As the pair sifted through the rubble, comforted the devastated survivors and ferried residents to safety, they began to fall in love. It was “love at first sight,” Richard told the Beaumont Enterprise. “I was very interested when I first met her. She just didn’t know.”
Richard came as part of the Cajun’s search and rescue operation, but he ended up staying for weeks afterward, as residents all across Southeast Texas began to slowly piece their lives back together. For Patty, it was a bit more of a sporadic decision to come help. “It’s hard work,” she said, “but it’s very rewarding seeing what you can do helping people.”
Although Patty eventually returned to Michigan, she couldn’t shake the sense that she needed to return at once. “That was before I even knew he was interested in me,” she said of Richard. Upon her return, things quickly progressed – by Christmas, this wonderful couple was engaged.
“We are the first to meet and get married in the Cajun Army,” Richard proudly declared. The couple said their vows on February 9 in a Jefferson County district court. Now, as the pair come to the end of their respective careers, they are excited about teaming up for an active retirement, jam-packed with volunteering work.
“Texans come to Louisiana to help us, so it’s just giving back. Helping a neighbor, basically, is what it is,” Richard said. “You never know when you might need that [help] yourself.” As they prepare for the task ahead, Richard and Patty are looking for several more recruits who are willing to get their hands dirty with the tough work of rebuilding homes and communities.
“There’s so much to be done in this area… it’s not just the Houston area,” Richard explained. “I guess they figured this is a small place…but you’ve got a lot of areas here that need help.”
The Cajun Army is very similar to the well-reported Cajun Navy, who provided countless heroic water rescues when flood waters from the hurricane were threatening lives. The army group, however, offers “a ‘more boots on the ground’ approach to help those in need,” according to the American Conservative’s Rod Dreher.
The South Louisiana and Texas chapters of the Cajun Army describes its workforce as “volunteers who go clean out, muck and gut flooded homes.” Adding, “we serve the least, the last, the lost and the lonely.”
There is plenty of work left to be done as Texas continues to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, but Richard is in high demand. Not only does he have his local community relying on him for vital relief work, but he has been invited to other nations such as Jamaica and Cuba.
For now, though, Richard and Patty are enjoying newly married life and preparing for the journey of a lifetime. “We’re figuring it all out as we go,” Richard said. “Every day is a new adventure.”