When Hurricane Katrina wiped out entire communities in one quick sweep, people the world over were shocked by the devastation. We were even more shocked by the realization that people sat for days without help…hungry, thirsty, exhausted, injured, suffering and even dying.
Katrina Brought Two Difficult Realities To Light
- Both natural and human-inflicted disaster can strike faster and stronger than we could ever imagine or prepare for; and
- Our governments and relief organizations are not equipped to move quickly and efficiently, leaving a large gap in disaster assistance that cannot be ignored.
As most watched the horror unfold helplessly from their living rooms, the idea of Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA) began to take shape when founder SgtMaj Lance Nutt, a Marine in neighboring Arkansas, used years of emergency and logistical training to lead a strategic relief effort straight into the heart of the destruction – before most organizations were ready to mobilize. It was through this mission that SDIA was born.
Upon seeing the immense devastation, and the subsequent delay in relief getting to the victims, Nutt recognized the need at hand and made the decision to act. He quickly tapped his local network of businesses and friends for supplies; a truck and trailer were soon loaded down with water, blankets, MREs (military meals), and other supplies deemed most immediately needed.
Nutt then recruited the help of two others: his friend (a police officer and former Marine), and his father (a retired Marine officer and RN). Both men were capable and willing to do whatever was needed onsite. They decided to go to Pass Christian, Mississippi – where the eye of the hurricane passed over, and where the Nutt family had vacationed.
Once the team arrived in Pass Christian, half of the supplies were deposited at the fire station, which was serving as central headquarters – and was one of the few buildings left undamaged. While hand-delivering the rest of the supplies to those in need, the team talked to a man who had held on to the back of his house while flood waters tried to sweep him away. They talked to another man who had to climb on top of his kids’ bunk beds for several hours until waters began to recede in order to breath.
It may have been a “small” effort — only a few people and one truck, after all — but it had a tremendous impact on those who were still days away from receiving any kind of assistance from large relief organizations. It was a small injection of life blood (“impact assistance”) to hold them over until major, long-term aid arrived.
The mission also had a huge impact on the men. On the way back to Arkansas, tired and dirty, but feeling extremely rewarded by the experience, the men discussed the challenges of our modern disaster relief capabilities, and their desire to continue helping in the future. And the SDIA concept began to grow and take shape.
In 2010, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance received its nonprofit designation and continued its disaster response work, hosted fundraising events, and began providing assistance to Sheep Dog families in need during the holidays. Since that first disaster response effort, SDIA has grown, expanded and refined its mission and programs to include outdoor adventures and #GetOffTheCouch activities to keep our Sheep Dogs engaged in between disaster response missions.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs stated in their 2019 report that more than 6,000 veterans die by suicide each year, and others report that twice as many First Responders die by suicide than in the line of duty. Post-traumatic stress, injuries, depression, addiction, and isolation plague our Sheep Dogs to the point of thinking about and/or attempting suicide. By gathering together Sheep Dogs who have suffered similar traumas and experiences, SDIA has found that the camaraderie and peer support they receive fosters healing and is critical to their overall well-being. When Sheep Dogs Get Off The Couch™, their attitude, motivation and perspective are drastically improved.
Joining SDIA in our continued service opportunities – Disaster Response Missions and Outdoor Adventures – satisfies Sheep Dogs’ innate desire to serve, and we have found that engaging, assisting, and empowering our nation’s heroes helps to prevent suicides in our Veteran and First Responder communities.
For Sheep Dogs, “Helping Others is a Way of Life” and “Helping is Healing.”
SDIA’s national office is located in Rogers, Arkansas, and continues its expansion throughout the US.