He's Back From Iraq To Quickly Clean Katrina's Mess - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/22/05

He's Back From Iraq To Quickly Clean Katrina's Mess

James Banta's house had four feet of water ripping right through his walls. But Banta had no clue his Biloxi home was falling apart. The National Guardsman was in Iraq, thousands of miles from the rushing water.

"If I had been here, ain't no telling what would have happened," he said.

Almost four weeks after Katrina made landfall, most of his soaked sheet rock had been torn out. But one wall still showed the water line from the 12 hours in late August when the hurricane roared through Biloxi. One look at the disaster made Banta actually feel fortunate that he was dodging insurgents, instead of riding out the hurricane.

"Yes, the road blows up next to you, you get shot at every now and then,"he said. "But this, this just took away a lot of people's things."

Banta obviously had no chance to protect his home. So he lost almost everything he owned. He realized he was "probably safer where I was rather than staying here."

Storm surge from the neighboring back bay swept through Ridge Drive near Biloxi High School. Homes had to be gutted. Appliances had to be tossed into debris piles.

"At least I've got walls and a roof on," Banta said.

The 155th gave the Biloxi police officer and almost five dozen other hurricane victims just two weeks to rush back from the war zone and salvage what they could find in the hurricane zone. The emergency visit ends on Sunday. Banta is already thinking about the end of his deployment.

"This is just going to take manual labor, that's all. And I can do that," he said. "This will give me something to do when I get back."

When will that be? Banta doesn't know. But he's looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding what Hurricane Katrina tore down.

"Putting this all back together, it won't be the same, but it will be a house," he said.

by Brad Kessie

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