In the aftermath of the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey, the city of Houston and its surrounding areas were plagued with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Roads had turned to virtual rivers, stranding thousands of residents in their homes. This in turn left much of the population without medical assistance and basic commodities such as electricity.
The problems of Houston were further exacerbated with the reality that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would take time to amass its resources to appropriately respond to the devastation caused by Harvey. Finding itself in such dire straits, city administrators put out a call for any and all citizens who could help assist residents.
Following the call, the people of southeast Texas found help from an unlikely source.
Calling itself the “Cajun Navy,” a large group of roughly 1,000 volunteers consisting mostly of boatmen and hunters, descended upon the city in canoes, bass boats, air boats and other small recreational vessels. Their purpose was simple: help those in need.
In the early days following Harvey, the Cajun Navy was responsible for saving estimably thousands of people from their flooded homes and neighborhoods.
Although the number of those helped by the Cajun Navy is probably significantly less than those helped by FEMA once it was mobilized, the group was crucial in the days following the disaster. Although not as large in number and effectiveness as its governmental parallel, the Cajun Navy—to put it in realistic terms—was the only group assisting local authorities in their attempt to help the people of southeast Texas in the days immediately following the hurricane.
Formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Cajun Navy is a grassroots movement comprised of mostly Louisianans who personally know the pain of losing homes and belongings due to disastrous weather.
With few exceptions, the Cajun Navy has been universally praised for their altruism from all areas of the political spectrum.
However, some have found reason for concern over the grass-roots organization, centering criticism on their ability and utility—as a group of mostly untrained volunteers—to help in the wake of major natural disasters.
To further complicate matters, a Louisiana senator is working on legislation that—if passed— will force the Cajun Navy to pay fees and register with the government before it can continue its work of helping those in need. The senator claims that the legislation is to help pay for costs as well as cover liabilities incurred by the group.
The situation brings up an old problem in American politics: how far should the government regulate those who wish to help those in need and for what reasons? In the wake of Harvey the Cajun Navy was crucial in saving countless people from their flooded neighborhoods. Many believe that more would have perished without them.
Despite the future of the group, the sole purpose of their mission—so far as anyone can tell—was to selflessly help those in need. If this is true, then they may not be more than heroes, but they definitely aren’t less.