Some Heroes of the Cajun Navy — first responders and ordinary citizens who put their lives at risk to save others during the recent flooding — will be honored at Sunday's Red Stick Together, a free concert for flood relief.
Those to be honored in a 4 p.m. ceremony on the stage in downtown's Repentance Park are: the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office, James E. LeBlanc, Marshal 'Big Hog' Hogland, Scott Ayers, Jere Delaune, and Joey Bernard and Emileigh Searcy.
The stories of all the heroes nominated by our readers can be found at theadvocate.com.
The Heroes of the Cajun Navy is presented by The Advocate and sponsored by ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, Hancock Whitney, Manda Fine Meats, Peoples Health, Red River Bank and Acadian Ambulance Service.
Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office
More than 80 deputies were displaced during the flood, according to the Lori Steele, of the sheriff's office.
"Some were hit a second time after being displaced following Katrina, but you'd never know that because they won't talk about it," Steele said. "During this flooding event, these deputies, men and women, led the charge to save as many people as possible. (They performed) 20,000-plus rescues, with one fatality. That was a miracle considering communication was down for many.
"Deputies had to rely on instinct when out in the field. From looking for taped 'HELP' signs on doors to coordinating efforts with other first responders and citizens to evacuating the medically fragile, they did it nonstop.
"And when shelters flooded, they had to evacuate folks again. Their focus remained on saving lives.
"Now, these same deputies are working 'round the clock to eliminate looting, rebuild their parish and rebuild their own homes."
James E. LeBlanc
LeBlanc, the St. Amant fire chief, "never stopped since day one," despite losing his own home and fire stations to floodwaters, says Louise French, of Gonzales, who nominated the chief for the honor.
"He has worked 20 hours a day, taking 300 to 400 phone calls per day, saving flooded tombs from floating away and commanding over 500 people," she wrote. "The fire chief's job is a non-paying job. He does all of this, as he has for 30 years, because he loves this parish and the people of this parish so very much."
Marshal 'Big Hog' Hoglund
The Greenwell Springs resident worked for hours saving friends and family, says girlfriend Jennifer Cottano.
And then he set out to save her granny, Betty Jean Cottano.
"He left to go get her. It took him nearly four hours to get her and get her home," Jennifer Cottano wrote. "He got a boat and tied it around his waist with a piece of string, and swam the boat two miles to the house she was in and got her. He then swam the boat back another two miles with my Granny, her friend and her friend's three dogs.
"Not only did he spend all day Saturday rescuing all of my family, he rescued many strangers and went out again on Sunday and rescued more people.
"His new nickname in our house is Big Hero 6. He risked his life to save me, my mom, my sister, my niece, my nephew, my grandmother, my aunt, my uncle and countless strangers."
Delaune made his way from Brusly to Baton Rouge with his boat to do what he could and ended up being a hero to Keith Silvio's family and many more.
After saving Silvio's family from their flooded Baton Rouge home, Delaune came to the rescue of those stranded in a National Guard truck that slipped off Greenwell Springs Road in the rushing water.
"The whole truck listed and the 20 or so men, woman and children in the back with no life vests were panicking," Silvio wrote. "Jere quickly brought his boat along side of the truck and pulled as many as we could hold, including two National Guardsmen, in the truck. All occupants made it to safety, and the truck remained there, inoperable.
"Jere was among many who did a selfless thing and helped my family and many others. I'd estimate he moved 200 people of all walks of life that day to safety, including many in wheelchairs, elderly and children.
"He's a great example of what we stand for in Louisiana."
The professional fisherman, who lives in Houma, put his skills on the water to work saving people, wrote Mark Thibidaux.
"My family and I had been on the roof of our house for 16 hours, and it was dark. To be honest, I was beginning to become scared that no one was coming. That's when we saw his boat idling through the trees and houses with a spotlight and a bullhorn calling for people that could hear him to let them know help was here and we had not been forgotten about," Thibidaux wrote.
"My wife, Tammy, offered to pay him for the rescue, and his response is something we will never forget as long as we live. 'I don't want your money ma'am, I just want y'all to remember that down here we don't turn our backs on our neighbors in time of need. This is a bad deal, but we as a community are stronger than any floodwaters, winds or whatever else is thrown at us. We will come back from this and come back bigger and better than ever.'
"Great words from a soft-spoken hero!"
Joey Bernard and Emileigh Searcy
Wanting to help, Bernard and Searcy traveled from Butte La Rose to Denham Springs to do what they could in the rescue effort, wrote the Rev. Dr. Lawton Searcy, of St. Gabriel, who is Emileigh's dad.
After a day of rescuing people, they were headed home when they came upon the scene of a Pointe Coupee Parish deputy sheriff whose rescue boat had been sucked under the water of an overpass, throwing him from the boat.
"He was clinging to a tree in the woods," Rev. Searcy wrote, noting that others thought the water was moving too fast to attempt a rescue.
"They could hear the pleas for help from the officer. My daughter took a Q-beam light and located him in the trees. Joey said he couldn't stand by and watch a man die. He launched his boat off of I-12 and with my daughter holding the light from shore, he made the dash to the officer. He had a broken arm and was clinging to the tree barely above water with the other arm.
"Joey reached down in the water and grabbed the officer and pulled him into the boat, safely returning to the road. My daughter, who is an RN and a medic, secured his arm and placed him in a National Guard truck that had arrived on the scene and transported him out.
"By that time, Joey and Emileigh could not get out of the area so they spent three days rescuing people."
When The Advocate put out a call for heroes of the Cajun Navy, many of you responded with st…