Cody Hirt didn’t have to say yes when his brother-in-law called to report he was driving in from West Texas, with a boat, to rescue people in Houston, and asked him to come along. Hirt could have stayed in his Georgetown home with his young family—a wife, 5-year-old boy, 8-year-old daughter—and wished his brother-in-law good luck.
But Hirt, co-founder of Mesquite Outdoor Outfitters, said yes. He then hung up the phone and rallied his troops: his fellow members of Veteran Outdoors, the service organization he co-founded, which surprises veterans with the outdoor expeditions of their dreams. Within 10 minutes, he had 20 committed men and half a dozen more boats ready to hit the road the next day, August 28. But this was no one’s dream expedition. The group was heading into rapidly rising floodwaters in a city located hours away, unsure of how to even find people in need of help once they got there.
Born and raised in West Texas, Hirt was a Houstonian for a short amount of time, between 2002 and 2004, when he worked at the Wildcat Golf Club, the official course of the Houston Texans, among other local teams. “I formed amazing relationships with the Texans players,” he explained, something that led to a role he continued to play even after moving to Georgetown, driving in for every Texans home game.
Have you ever seen Toro, the Texans mascot, beating up the opposing team’s mascot in those cartoon-like skits before the games? For years, the guy suited up as the other team’s mascot was Cody Hirt—a man happy to get roughed up for a team and a city he loves.
By 4:30 a.m., Hirt was on the ground—or, rather, the water—in Friendswood. “At that point,” he later recalled, “the police department and fire in Friendswood were helping us and directing us where to go.”
Soon, more calls for rescues started coming in from Katy, so the team loaded up the boats and headed west. Over the next four days, they would conduct hundreds of water rescues in Friendswood, Katy and Cypress, with the help of social media platforms that broadcasted addresses and locations of those in need, as well as massive networks of friends who funneled information to Hirt’s team.
“My entire life, my mom has taught me to network and love on people, and that some day, that’ll bless me,” Hirt said. “What I’ve seen throughout this disaster is that all these people I’ve been blessed to meet and know have stepped up and been an integral part of this.”
Each night, Hirt and his volunteers found their generosity returned by Houstonians who opened their doors to the team. “At the end of the day, we found a warm, wonderful place to stay where people cooked for us and washed our clothes.”
After day four, the men, exhausted, headed home. But Hirt’s work wasn’t done: The Veteran Outdoors team quickly regrouped and began to help organize airlifts of supplies to Houston, Beaumont and other areas through their contacts in the aviation industry. By the first week of September, they’d already dispatched over 50 airplanes full of hot meals and other supplies.
Why do all this for a city that’s not his own? Why say yes?
“I’ve thought about that quite a bit,” said Hirt. “About the state of Texas. It’s almost like when your little sister or brother gets punched by a bully and you come running to help them. Through disasters, people’s true colors come through. Texans have dropped everything they’ve been arguing about to help a brother or sister. It’s been a beautiful thing, to know that the world can still be saved by the people that are on it.”