British Army Veteran Paul Taylor Deploys to South Carolina
Paul Taylor enlisted with the British Army at age 16 and served with the infantry for 26 years. The former Fusilier now resides in the town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, and earlier this month, he departed for South Carolina to support Operation: Palmetto Punch with Team Rubicon USA. His first trip to the United States was for Army Ranger school back in 1992.
“It’s been very interesting because I’m seeing part of America that someone like me normally wouldn’t see,” said Paul. “Most come here for vacation or work assignment, but I’m on the ground interacting with a community that’s been devastated by flooding.”
Paul’s last few months have been anything but normal. Just weeks after leisurely trekking in Nepal, he caught wind of the 7.8 earthquake that struck the picturesque country in April. His employer happened to share an email explaining what Team Rubicon was and how their volunteers were going to help those affected.
“I heard Team Rubicon was seeking veterans and medics from the UK to deploy. I felt like I had taken a lot from Nepal and was given the opportunity to give something back.”
Paul joined nine British military veterans, including five Gurkhas, in Kathmandu and outlying villages alongside 50 members of Team Rubicon USA. This marked the first operation for Team Rubicon UK. Together, they conducted medical operations, impact assessments, debris removal, and expedient repairs to damaged structures like a boarding school in the village of Sermathang.
Today, he’s in Columbia, South Carolina getting insight on a TR USA operation and supporting hundreds of residents struggling to start the rebuilding process after historic flooding in the region.
“In Nepal, many of those we helped didn’t have a lot to begin with. It was almost easier for them to endure hardship, although still extremely tragic, and they were so thankful we arrived to provide some relief,” said Paul. “Here in such a developed country, when people lose so much, they don’t know where to begin or how to get back to normal.”
Shortly after arriving, Paul set out on a damage assessment team to speak with homeowners to learn how TR could help. They encountered a distraught 74-year-old widow who had lost nearly all her possessions. She had no flood insurance, no money, no family, and seemingly no way to move on.
“It was quite upsetting for me. I tried to come to terms with the fact that if it weren’t for TR, she’d have nothing but damp floors, hazardous mold, and rotten wood,” said Paul. “We were able to leave her home in a position where someone could come in and start the rebuilding process, but I still felt rather helpless.”
But Paul and dozens of his teammates were anything but helpless. More than 100 members from across the States, along with fellow TR UK member Doug Clark, deployed to Columbia to get dirty and make a difference. Strike teams were removing debris by the truckload and sawing down trees at risk of causing further damage to homes. They were ripping up flood-stricken floors and salvaging keepsakes where they could. They were getting the job done by any means possible and working with partners like IsraAID to do more good.
“We’ve been so welcomed here. We’re veterans with a common bond, but we’re also working with local churches, students from nearby colleges, and other NGOs who care,” said Paul. “It proves that no matter where you go in this world, human beings are inherently good and want to help.”
Beyond providing relief to those affected by the flooding, Paul recognized Team Rubicon was helping its veteran volunteers by providing a sense of purpose, community, and identity many lose after hanging up their uniform.
“Some struggle emotionally after service, and with TR, it’s open and honest, and people feel comfortable sharing intimate details about their challenges. There’s no judgement, and everyone gains 30 new battle buddies.”
At the FOB (forward operating base), Paul showcased soccer skills far superior than his new American peers and enjoyed the end-of-day banter and laughter after working to dislodge sheetrock with sledge hammers all day.
He looks forward to telling the story of Team Rubicon when he returns home and added, “When I get home and people ask ‘What did you do?’ I’ll tell them we helped the elderly, disabled, veterans, and the poor. And I’ll tell them how proud I was to serve again.”