Caitlin "Cait" Shields '11 December 21, 2017 9:00 AM updated: December 21, 2017 2:34 PM
Patrick Payne ’14, left, and Berry Summerour II ’89 gig 'em under the Haynes Ring Replica.
The devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas brought neighbors together, many of them Aggies, to support one another where they could. One such happenstance connected two former students – a rescuer and an evacuee – for a brief moment and fostered a relationship that they say will last a lifetime.
National Guard Pfc. Patrick Payne ’14 ran into Berry Summerour II ’89 after Summerour and his family had evacuated their north Houston home. The two talked for mere minutes, but when Summerour heard that Payne’s Aggie Ring had been stolen from the shelter his Guard unit was staying in while responding to the disaster, he acted immediately.
Summerour put a call out on Facebook for help to purchase Payne a new Ring. He said he had enough pledges within minutes to buy Payne a new piece of Aggie gold, which he presented at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center earlier this month.
“It’s the Aggie thing to do,” said Summerour, who earned his bachelor’s in agricultural economics before completing his MBA in 1992, also at Texas A&M. “I know how important the Ring is. I never take mine off (except when I sleep). Just his young age, I know how hard it is to replace something so expensive. There was never any doubt in my mind that something had to be done for him.”
Payne, who earned a bachelor’s in international studies and was in the Corps of Cadets at A&M, was part of a Guard unit that was, among other duties during the disaster, driving residents who had been evacuated back into their neighborhoods, where floodwaters allowed, to collect salvageable belongings before the levees were opened.
Patrick Payne '14 was deployed with his National Guard unit, 536 Delta Company, for 18 days in the Houston area for Hurricane Harvey assistance.
Summerour, his wife and their two dogs were evacuated from their home by boat. When he learned that his neighborhood would be affected by the planned levee release, he and his brother-in-law, Derrick Jernigan ’85, decked out in Aggie gear, headed to the staging area where Guard units were picking up residents to head back to their homes.
“I walked over and introduced myself and I saw those Rings,” Payne said. “I maybe talked to them for three minutes before I heard my name called and I took off running.”
Berry and his wife Jennifer Summerour ’92, Melissa ’85 and Derrick ’85 Jernigan, Scott Townsend ’96, Mary and Ken Hutcherson, Joe Dailey, Jim Kelley ’75 and J.D. and Amber ’03 Marsh all came together to make sure Payne would have an Aggie Ring once again.
“A group of guys and myself had just returned from a night mission where we were up to our chest in contaminated water. On our return, back (at) Lone Star College, we headed directly for the showers, which at the time were being utilized by soldiers and evacuees also staying at the college,” Payne said of the night his Ring went missing. “In the time it took to take a shower, my Aggie Ring and a fellow soldier’s wedding ring were stolen out of our lockers. It was something I decided to just accept. It was irresponsible to bring my Ring, but since it rarely leaves my finger it wasn’t something I actively thought about (when) preparing to leave my home for my unit. People needed the help we were delivering, and above all people needed kindness, and it was something I chose not to focus on in the moment.
“I lost my Aggie Ring ... but (Summerour’s) whole house flooded and he (is) in the middle of a remodel and had to live in an apartment,” Payne said.
Summerour’s home (right) stayed dry during Harvey’s initial downpour but did not escape the opened levees unscathed.
“We’re kind of high up; we had about three inches in the house and six in the garage,” Summerour said. “(The) flooring was all ripped up, we had to tear up a foot of drywall, cabinets (and) bathtubs. We’re in the process of moving back in, but it’s livable. It should be back to normal in January. We’ve been living in a one-bedroom apartment for the interim.”
Payne, who was deployed with his Guard unit, 536 Delta Company, for 18 days for Harvey assistance, called Summerour's efforts to replace his lost Ring "the gold standard of selfless service."
Took people back to their homes yesterday for the first time since the storm hit to grab personal belongings. It will still be 10-15 days before water drains out of their neighborhood and homes. #buffalobayou #houston #houstontx #harvey #hurricaneharvey #nationalguard #solider #prayforhouston #texanshelpingtexans #flood
Second Time Around
This is Payne’s second replacement Ring, as his first Ring was taken at knife-point while he was studying abroad in Chile.
“More than the feeling of losing (my Ring during Harvey), what was even worse was knowing it had been bought by other people.
“I was pretty violently robbed in South America, and my friends purchased my second (Ring) and now strangers my third, and I feel like when I’m more financially stable in life … I’d like to be able to give back directly."