POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - SENT AS A PRESS RELEASE BY THE MISSOURI NATIONAL GUARD AND WRITTEN BY: STAFF SGT. COLTON ELLIOTT
Standing on a busted levee with water levels rising by the minute, Kacey Proctor watched as water headed toward his childhood home, where his mother still lives.
The young lieutenant knew he had to find a way to preserve the land he was raised on.
In anticipation of flooding from days of heavy rain forecast for Missouri and the Midwest, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens declared a state of emergency April 30, which activated more than 500 National Guard members from across the state to assist communities with road repair, sandbagging, security and wellness checks in order to keep the citizens of Missouri safe.
Proctor, the officer in charge of the Missouri Army National Guard's 1138th Engineer Company out of Farmington, Missouri, was not on the initial team activated to assist with the state of emergency. However, that did not stop him from doing everything he could to support his local community during this natural disaster.
"When I found my own unit was in my home town working and I couldn't help, it was driving me crazy," Proctor said. "This is my backyard, so I had to do something."
Proctor showed up anyway, but as a community volunteer, and went straight to work directing people where to go.
He called local authorities and asked for other volunteers to help support Missouri National Guard efforts to fill sand bags and transport them to flood-prone areas.
Hundreds of local residents showed up; many brought food, water and snacks and went straight to work filling thousands of sand bags.
It didn't take long for Proctor's company commander, Capt. Richard Branson, to learn that his OIC was in the thick of the flood-defense effort, as a community volunteer. Branson instructed Proctor to return the next day, dressed in his Army Combat Uniform, to report for state emergency duty.
"He's the kind of guy you want on your team," Branson said, whose company of "sappers," or combat engineers, is typically employed in road repairs and bomb detonations. "We knew we wouldn't be able to keep him away. It was vital to the community and for us to have him here."
One of the sites Proctor's team was sent to repair happened to be less than a mile from the house he was raised in, and where his mother still resides today.
"It was emotional for me standing out there on top of the levee, watching the water rushing in, while knowing my mom's house is just down the road," Proctor said.
He said he still remembers playing Army games out in those same fields with his brothers, and loved pretending they were out there saving the world.
"I always dreamed of being in the Army," Proctor said. "Here I am now in the Missouri National Guard, standing in these same fields assisting my community during these circumstances. It's a very surreal feeling."
Proctor's childhood home remained undamaged, in large part thanks to the efforts of the Guard and the Poplar Bluff community. But many of Proctor's friends and co-workers weren't as fortunate; a number of homes were destroyed and some local businesses flooded or were washed away.
As a community, however, Poplar Bluff has remained positive and in good spirits despite the hardships endured.
"Growing up here, I knew that there were tons of good, honest and hardworking people who live in this community," Proctor said. "This is the first time I've seen something this big happen here. I got to witness this part of the community and the fabric which this town is made from. I've never been more proud to be a part of this town.
"I just love this community. This community raised me, and having the opportunity to come back and serve in this capacity is a great honor and very humbling," he added.