Because of massive rains early in October, severe flooding crippled several towns in eastern North and South Carolina. Columbia, S.C., was hit especially hard when rains caused dams to break in and around the capital city. Seeing video of the devastation caused me to act. Owning a 1965 M35A2 Deuce-and-a-half Army truck, that can safely drive through deep water, confirmed the idea to deliver relief supplies to our neighbors to the south.
I posted my plan on Facebook to drive my “Deuce” from my home in Raleigh, N.C., to Columbia, S.C., to do anything possible to help. Within just a few hours, fellow Spec E30 racer Scott McKay contributed $500 for bottled water, and other friends had delivered bags of clothing, tooth paste, tooth brushes, batteries, and other supplies. The USO of North Carolina donated about 15 cases of bottled water.
We bought about 3,800 bottles of water at a local home improvement store with Scott’s contribution. With all supplies loaded, about 4,000 lbs. I guessed, I left Raleigh the next morning heading south.
About 40 miles into the 225-mile journey, I thought a short check-over stop might be a good idea. As I walked around the truck at the rest area, I immediately found a small but steady stream of smoke rising from the right rear tires. Smoldering wheel bearing grease. Obviously, I couldn’t continue much longer so I found a local truck service company about 8 miles away.
After arriving at the truck shop, I was told by the service manager that the bearing seal would be very difficult to find. However, after connecting with other local military vehicle preservationists, I was able to track down the seals about 80 miles away, and George at White Owl Parts Co. donated the seals for both sides of the axle.
I returned the next morning and was on the road by noon, with another five hours of driving to go. As I approached the South Carolina border, I could see that the water had risen almost up to Interstate 95. A 74-mile stretch of I-95 from Florence, where I exited toward Columbia, southward was closed due to flooding.
My friend and business colleague in Columbia, Brian Golbus, who had been my contact for this trip, suggested I deliver water to Eastover, a small eastern South Carolina farming community southeast of Columbia that had been hit especially hard by the rains and flooding.
After being detoured four times around flooded two-lane rural highways, I arrived in Eastover at a staging area organized by the South Carolina National Guard. The Guard personnel were surprised to see a 50 year-old truck and nearly 50-year-old driver arrive with so many cases of water. I asked them to unload one pallet. The second pallet was going to Columbia. The steady stream of local folks picking up water confirmed that we were doing some good. The Deuce looked right at home with the Humvees and other military trucks in Eastover. Several young National Guard soldiers spent time looking at the simplicity of the truck and its controls compared to their modern vehicles, and waved as I left.
As I got closer to Columbia, I noticed more standing water in yards and fields. Cars were stranded in pools of water up to the floor pans. Mud and dry dirt covered crops and roadways, and several sections of highways had been washed away. As I approached the outskirts of Columbia, it was late in the day and commuter traffic was heavy.
As I crept along in first gear however, other drivers saw the remaining six-foot tall pallet of water and other supplies in the bed of the Deuce and waved, cheered, blew their horns, and yelled “thank you.” They were not just showing their appreciation for me, they were applauding everyone who made this possible.
I arrived at the shelter in Columbia, a large and modern community center. The police officer in the parking lot asked if I could deliver water to the Lexington County Sheriff’s office. I drove about 10 miles through town and parked by the front door. The deputies and I unloaded about 60 cases. They thanked me for making the trip and I then checked Google Maps for the nearest parts store. A loose battery terminal needed some attention. Yes, things sometimes vibrate loose in an old Army truck.
The last stop of the evening was Brian’s church, just outside Columbia. After unloading the remaining supplies, I aimed the truck toward Raleigh. The cool night air was a welcome relief from the hot and humid heat of the day and while the flat and thinly padded bench seat isn’t the most comfortable place to sit for 13 hours, I was feeling pretty good, knowing what we had accomplished. It’s easy to forget how lucky we have been in our lives and having a chance to give back, feels pretty good.
Carter Hunt is the Spec E30 series founder and a NASA Southeast member.