Guardsman credits service with saving his life, glad to help storm victims

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Kentucky National Guard Pfc. Kyle Gray, 301st Chemical Company, pulls nails out of a piece of plywood March 6 during tornado relief efforts in West Liberty, Ky. Gray boarded up broken windows and holes for West Liberty resident Thomas Coder, a retired Air Force veteran, after a tornado damaged most of his home March 2. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson, 133rd MPAD, Kentucky National Guard)

WEST LIBERTY, Ky.– In 2010, Kyle Gray was in a poor situation. With no place to turn, he packed up his belongings and moved from California to Kentucky and joined the National Guard.

“The Guard kinda saved my life,” he said.

A year and some change later, Gray, a private first class assigned to the Morehead, Ky.-based 301st Chemical Company, was ready to pay it forward.

“Today we got our hands on helping people,” he said, wiping the dirt and sawdust on his pant legs.

Gray, along with more than 100 other Soldiers assigned to the 103rd Chemical Battalion, responded to West Liberty, Ky., within hours of a F3 tornado that ravaged the area.

“The storm wasn’t far from me at all,” said the Morehead resident. “We were watching the news and I was nervous. I’d never been through this before.

“I’d never seen anything like this before from this side of the TV,” he said. “You see these people suffering from losing their homes and family members and friends and all of their stuff. It’s just devastating.”

Gray spent the first three days after the storm conducting search and recovery operations, then patrolling the streets to ensure the power company had room to work to get power back to the area.

“All I wanted to do was help,” he said.

On March 6, four days after the storm, Gray was finally able to push back his sleeves and lend a helping hand.

“Have you ever been out in the middle of a lake and realized you couldn’t swim? That’s how we feel,” said Thomas Coder, a disabled retired Air Force veteran.

“When you’re in need, you take all the help you can get,” he said. “We can relax a little knowing the Army Guard is here.”

Gray helped locate large pieces of plywood from debris piles to cover some of Coder’s broken windows and holes in the walls left by the tornado.

“I just thank God the Guard is here and can help me,” he said.

Which is exactly the mission that Gray wanted.

“I just wanted to let people know we are here for them,” he said. “That’s why we are in the Guard and I enjoy it.”

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