For Larissa and Nevada Martinez, weekends are dad time.
“We haven’t seen him since last Saturday. We don’t live with our dad so weekends are important to us,” Larissa Martinez said. “We came over for breakfast. My dad said he was happy we got to spend that morning together, and so were we.”
Alex Martinez, the father of Larissa, 22, and Nevada, 17, is a logistics member of Nevada Task Force 1.
After being on alert for more than 24-hours, 82-members of NV-TF1 mobilized and were sent to Colorado in the early morning hours of Sept. 15 to respond to deadly floods.
A week after they left, they came home.
As they got off the freeway at Craig Road on Sunday afternoon, officials announced to waiting family members that their husbands, fathers and friends were around the corner.
A few minutes later, the crew of search and rescue volunteers, communications, HAZMAT and logistics specialists, and paramedics came home to palpable excitement and resounding cheers.
“You’re some of the luckiest people in the world because you’re related to heroes,” Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins said to the gathered family members as the team finished completing necessary out-processing before they could reunite with their loved ones.
For the week they were deployed, team members conducted rescues by helicopter in areas cut off by flooding to save stranded people and their animals.
“You couldn’t even tell where the road was. The highway was completely washed away and houses with it,” HAZMAT specialist and Las Vegas firefighter Eric Moon said. “They had us working with local search and rescue volunteers. Everyone was very professional. It was an amazing experience.”
Moon suffered an ankle injury during the first day of a two-day mission while he was deployed after a dog slipped away from it’s owner and fell in swift moving water. That mission saw 11 people, 11 dogs and a variety of other animals rescued.
“We were doing search and rescue operations outside of Drake, and there was a small neighborhood cut off by flood,” he said. “We flew in on a blackhawk and hiked down through rough terrain. One of the dogs we evacuated ran away from its owner and fell into swift water. When I was running down to it, I hit a rock.”
The dog was rescued by the helicopter pilot after making it out of the river, and Moon’s injury should be healed in about two weeks, he said.
Despite being injured, Moon was proud to be a part of the mission that rescued thousands of people.
“I’m proud to be a part of it,” he said. “I was just happy to be part of the mission.”
And happy to be home to see his wife and kids, he said.
After a week apart, Alex Martinez was thrilled to see his kids, greeting them with a long hug.
“It’s good to be home. I’m a little tired, but it’s great,” he said, still looking forward to the dinner he planned with his children. “It was busy all of the time. The support people were awesome. The country is beautiful.”
As the members of the task force helped rescue people affected by the floods, their families waited eagerly for words from their loved ones.
“We’re just proud and nervous at the same time, but he’s been loving every minute of it,” Shelley Taylor said while waiting for husband Frank, who is a squad leader with the task force.
Her 17-year-old son Luke waited by her side, wearing his dad’s North Las Vegas fire battalion chief shirt, which he could finally fit into.
“(We) took a picture on a cell phone and sent it to him,” she said of the time he was deployed. “He said it meant the world to him.”
Linda Emer was grateful that her husband, a communications officer, was able to keep in touch as best he could.
“Sure, we miss them, but small snippets of conversation are good,” she said. “It’s a hardship, but they’re doing things they are good at things, they have been trained to do.”
She had just convinced her husband, Dudley, to eat after he spent the Saturday before deploying at the warehouse ensuring that all the communications equipment was in order.
Then he was called to deploy.
“The energy was dynamic, that’s for sure,” he said. “We set up satellite systems, radios, phones.”
This deployment was a bit different from some of the others the veteran communications officer had been on, including responding to Hurricane Katrina.
“This was different, not what we usually do. As something changed, we changed with it,” Dudley Emer said. “We did animal evacuations on this, which was different than Katrina. It was a lesson learned (at Katrina). People wouldn’t leave without their animals.”
For some, the amount of animal rescues came as a surprise.
“We had to rescue the pets, too,” Alex Martinez said. “I don’t know how many dogs, but everyone has a dog.”
Dudley Emer found the organizational integration of the mission to be excellent, and the operation was run smoothly, but he said there was some difficulty establishing communications in flooded canyon areas.
Despite any difficulties, it was rewarding to be a part of the mission, Alex Martinez said.
For those families who needed help while their loved ones deployed, friends and relatives stepped up to the plate to do what they could.
“When these people deploy, these girls are by themselves,” said Colleen Witt, waiting with her best friend, whose husband was coming home. “It takes a village. We help with home-cooked meals, babysitting.”
As for Dudley Emer’s first night back home: “I’m gonna have a home-cooked meal and play catch-up. Actually, I’ll have a Merlot.”
Contact reporter Rochel Leah Goldblatt at 383-0381 or email@example.com.