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With Rising Waters, Cadets Step Up to Help the Helpers    

November 7, 2019

Cadets are awarded a plaque of recognition and service for their help assisting members of the Beaumont Police Department during Tropical Storm Imelda and the subsequent flooding events in Beaumont during September 2019.

By Andréa Bolt

Residents of South Texas are all too familiar with the deadly threats posed by tropical storms, hurricanes and other extreme water-based weather events. We also know that disasters don’t discriminate.

So when Tropical Storm Imelda dumped over 40 inches of rain on the northeast Houston area, extending her wrath all the way to Beaumont, six Texas A&M Maritime Academy cadets stepped up and decided to help those who normally help others in times of need.

Cadet Keegan O’Kelley saw when the rain from Imelda inundated the Beaumont area and he decided to do what Aggies do best — help.

O’Kelley, a senior maritime studies major from Midlothian, has family in Beaumont and wanted to help out in some way. His family was unaffected, but he knew there were others in need of assistance.

“I thought it would be best to see if we could help those who normally do the helping, so I contacted the Beaumont Police Department and within 30 minutes, they told me they had four officers in need of assistance,” O’Kelly said.

TAMMA Commandant Major Claude Davidson said he was very proud of these cadets, but not at all surprised.

“Their selfless service was exceptional, but it doesn’t surprise me. I have seen the growth in Cadet Keegan O’ Kelley over the last three years. He was a squad leader last year in Bravo 1 and this year he is the company commander,” said Davidson. “It’s important for the cadets and students to help in communities because it helps them in their development of becoming people of character. I think the actions the cadets took is a testimony to the core values of Texas A&M.”

He recruited five more cadets and made the trek to Beaumont, where they dedicated an entire Saturday to the grueling work of ripping up ruined carpet and clearing out water-logged homes of debris and furniture.

Secretary Aaron Lewallen of the Beaumont Police Officers Association said the six cadets are the embodiment of the Aggie Core Values of excellence, leadership and selfless service in a letter to Maj. Davidson.

“By the end of the day, your cadets had worked over eight hours and at four different damaged homes. Please accept our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for their assistance. They should be commended for their dedication to service and the community,” Lewallen further wrote.

O’Kelley said some of his fellow cadets who helped that day; Billy Coldrick, Nathan Kieser, Austin Cupp, Stephen Donahey, and Thomas Wright, had dealt with the horrific aftermath left behind by Hurricane Harvey, so they knew firsthand how dire help is and all the emotions involved in such a situation.

“It felt good to get in there and help out those who generally do the helping out,” O’Kelley said. “They deserved it. They needed it and we were happy to do it.”


Media contact:
Andréa Bolt
Marketing and Communications

Texas A&M University at Galveston is the marine and maritime branch campus of Texas A&M University which educates nearly 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students in science, business, engineering, liberal arts and transportation. It is driving the development of the blue economy in the Gulf Coast Region and is a critical contributor to Texas A&M's rare land-, sea-, space-grant mission with nearly $10 million in research expenditures.

Texas A&M-Galveston is also home to the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, one of six state maritime academies and the only one in the southern United States, which trains over 400 cadets annually for maritime service and employment around the world.

Texas A&M-Galveston is located in Galveston, Texas on the Gulf Coast where it is surrounded by industry, environment and programs essential to fulfilling its special-purpose mission. Aggies are known for their deep commitment to the success of each other and their strong desire to serve.