By Bethany Newton
When Downriver native Jake Weller of Southgate heard the news of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation unleashed on the city of Houston, he knew he had to do something to help. At the time, however, he felt helpless as he didn’t know exactly how he could help — that is until a call came in urging people with small boats to help with the relief effort.
Weller was on a short one-month leave from his Georgia US Army base when he made the quick decision to hitch his boat to his truck and become a part of the rescue effort.
“As soon as I hit Louisiana and driving through Texas, I was driving through the hurricane,” Weller said. “I remember the only time I thought I was going to get stuck was when I was in the suburbs of Houston, and the road actually had about two feet of water, and I was worried about my truck getting stuck.”
Weller had teamed up with a group of people who were also going down to Houston to help, and he admits that he was definitely nervous because the conditions were so extreme and bad.
“Some people got to the point where they were going out to rescue, and they’d have to be rescued themselves because they would take on too many people in their boat, and it would capsize,” Weller said.
Weller remembers one time where this incident almost happened to him.
“The craziest moment I had was when we had gotten to this neighborhood called the Orange, and this lady was freaking out because she didn’t want to leave her two German Shepherds,” Weller said. “Nobody would put her dogs in the boat because they were getting other people out.”
According to Weller, it was the end of the day when they found the woman with the German Shepherds. Her house had already been completely flooded, but she refused to leave her dogs behind. So Weller risked capsizing his boat to rescue the woman and her two beloved dogs. Her happiness and appreciation will be something Weller won’t forget for some time.
In total, Weller rescued 54 people from flooded houses and apartment buildings in Houston, and he even raised relief of money for the area by going on Facebook live during the relief effort.
“People were like ‘Oh, I want to send you a check to pay for your expenses,’ and I was like ‘I’m not down here for that,’” Weller said. “So then somewhere outside of Houston, they had a huge emergency shelter set up in one of the big sports arenas, so I did a Facebook live video of the shelter down there and raised a bunch of money for Red Cross based off of that.”
When Weller speaks about the incident, it’s obvious that he didn’t do it for the recognition, but for the sole fact that he wanted to help these people in need. In a million years, he never believed that Facebook videos would be getting 20,000 likes or that local news organizations would be covering his story.
“I just knew people needed help, and that it seemed like the right thing to do,” Weller said.
The trip actually ended up being beneficial for Weller though in a way that he never would have expected, because just a short time after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Hurricane Irma hit a little closer to his home in Georgia.
“When Irma hit here a week later, I think a lot more people in my neighborhood got involved as far as like setting up shelters for people,” Weller said.
It’s a very real example of doing unto others as you want done unto you, and that’s the way Weller looks at this whole situation. He doesn’t want the fame or the notoriety from helping. He even briefly mentioned how there were many other people down there doing the same thing he was, but without Weller, these particular lucky people, all 54 of them, may not gotten evacuated from their homes.
And in Weller’s own words, “If anyone that has the ability to make a difference and they don’t do it, then you can’t expect anyone else in the same situation as you to go do something you’re not willing to do.”
This Hometown Hero is not only a US Veteran hero but a civilian hero who puts his country and mankind above his own needs.