The healing has started here in Louisiana, but the storms we endured, and the after effects do not tell the whole story. Houma has the honor to welcome a new resident that is of the finest cloth. He lost his home to hurricane Katrina, and has relocated to our town – Houma. I welcome him with open arms. The unit he is assigned to, is out of Houma, and they were in Iraq during Katrina. The Unit suffered six members killed at the same time by a roadside bomb. Six people from our own area. The unit had to endure losses to their fellow soldiers, and then some lost their homes to the storm. Houma and The Democratic Daily salutes these Citizen soldiers and their bravery.
Sgt. Leroy Osborn called New Orleans home for nearly his entire life.
He left the Crescent City last fall, when he and the 200 or so other members of the Houma-based Charlie Company were deployed for a year-long stint in Iraq.
The Black Sheep, a mechanized unit of the Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade, came home in waves starting in September. They flew into Alexandria in groups that quietly made their way home in between hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
No big fanfare accompanied their homecoming, in part because of the hurricane that devastated New Orleans and surrounding cities and in part because they came back without six of their members, all killed during a Jan. 6 bombing
Sgt. Osborn came back to destruction, but he has an upbeat outlook on things. He looks at what he has, and not what he lost. A far cry from the leadership that leads our country in this unfair war in Iraq.
While preparing to leave the Middle East for bayou country, the 31-year-old Osborn wasn’t sure what he was coming back to. He heard bits and pieces about Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall along Mississippi and Louisiana state line Aug. 29.
He knew that his mother, who he shared a home with, had evacuated and was safe. And he knew that the two of them would go together to see if the catastrophic storm had spared the house where they had lived for the past decade.
But Osborn said he wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted him when they pulled up outside the Gretna house.
“I took a look around and you see this big old tree ripped from the ground,” he said. “It was a big shock.”
The house was ruined. Many of their personal belongings were damaged.
Months after the storm, Osborn and his mother, Susitina Osborn, still aren’t sure what will become of their hurricane-damaged home.
They did manage to salvage some of their things, which they moved to a west-Houma duplex a week after Hurricane Rita hit Louisiana.
“We wanted it to all be done in a day,” Osborn said, recalling the mammoth move from the West Bank to Terrebonne Parish. “It took six or seven trips from Houma to New Orleans to get it done.”
Osborn said their timing was lucky because within a week the house, which had extensive water damage, collapsed. Since then, he hasn’t been back to see what remains of the single-story house he once called home.
While the loss of a house is a sad and difficult situation for anyone to face, Osborn takes a different tact. He focuses on what he has, not what he lost.
“Those are just things,” he said. “Losing the memories, that would have been horrible.”
Susitina Osborn said she plans to return to New Orleans one day, but Osborn says he’ll stay here.
And, for the citizen-soldier who spent a year in the sands of Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, losing a home isn’t the only adjustment he’s had to make.
Osborn has also tried to adapt to the change from military to civilian life.
During his tour of duty with Charlie Company, Osborn moved up the ranks. He started as a gunner on a Bradley fighting vehicle. He was promoted to the Bradley’s commander to replace another soldier who was shot to death during a mission.
Osborn said working as a gunner was often boring, a state that can lead to inattention and vulnerability. Once he became the commander, he said he made staying alert his number one priority.
“They say out there complacency is our greatest enemy,” he said. “I had to stay focused.”
Now that he’s safely back home, Osborn says he constantly reminds himself that he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder constantly as he goes through his day-to-day routine at the National Guard Armory.
Much like when he was in Iraq, Osborn is in charge of a crew of soldiers. In Houma, however, he’s overseeing the tasks that need to be completed here, tasks that include hurricane-relief missions throughout the state.
Our soldiers are so brave, yet they have a sorry commander in chief. We have to remember our troops, but at the same time, we have to remember that the leaders have forgotten that these are human and caring people of the highest order. Our state has given so much, and what we have received from Uncle Sam, is a slap in the face.