TOWNSEND — For most northern Massachusetts residents, the effects of the 2008 ice storm are over. The debris is cleared and gone, homes and vehicles repaired, and yards look more or less as they did a few years ago. Some homes sport new generators in case utilities are lost again.
For one Townsend National Guardsman, Sgt. 1st Class David Jackson, cleanup has just begun. A member of the 211th Military Police, Jackson was deployed to Fort Taji, Iraq before he could make a start on the damage. Away from his home for a year, he made it back once for two weeks. In February.
Jackson lived in town less than two years before he was deployed. “When we had the ice storm that’s when things started to fall apart. Life was smacking me down,” he said.
His scheduled deployment was delayed as he dealt with a failing marriage and a job loss. When he returned from overseas and more training he was confronted with the disaster his yard had become.
“A friend told me about GreenCare,” he said.
Initially, GreenCare for Troops, an organization dedicated to helping active-duty servicemembers take care of their homes while away, said the job was too big.
Doug Fitzgerald, a retired West Point graduate and Harvard University trained landscape professional, heard of Jackson’s plight. He knew just the guy to contact.
Tim Manigan of Townsend, a retired serviceman, answered the call. A Red Cross volunteer, he ran the shelter at Hawthorne Brook School during the aftermath of the ice storm.
After taking a look at the property, Manigan saw it would take more than some just rakes and shovels to get the job done. He started the ball rolling by talking with people and asking for help at a selectmen’s meeting.
People are stepping up to the plate. Mary and Keith Letourneau are the heroes of the project, Manigan said. The two town employees have been up to the house four or five times on their own time to do some of the heavy work.
Letourneau’s backhoe sits in the front yard. He will be coming up a few more times to pull stumps. He has already cut back heavy growth in the yard and along the driveway and removed many loads of brush.
The town is allowing the debris to be brought to the landfill. Lenny Smith of Townsend is lined up to use his heavy equipment to grade the property.
Selectman Bob Plamondon and Townsend resident Will Hackler have promised to bring people to work in the yard. Cub Scout Troop 12 is also ready to assist Manigan said.
More help from the community is needed. There is plenty of raking to do and brush needs to be pulled onto the lawn area so it can be removed.
“We need a bunch of people,” he said. Volunteers should bring a rake, brush cutters or even a chain saw. Work is planned for the weekends of Oct. 16 and 23.
Anyone wishing to donate time should contact Manigan at 978-660-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackson is looking forward to turning around and helping another active duty soldier in his situation. He will not be deployed again for at least two years and knows there are others who have not been able to maintain their properties while serving their country.
He is thrilled with the help he is getting now. “It’s like a dream come true. It’s just amazing. It’s crazy,” he said.