BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Bentonville native Jessy Heard joined the Arkansas Army National Guard to be a combat medic.
“I signed up to be able to go and help support in any medical way,” she said.
In 2011, she was sent to tiny Cotton Plant, Arkansas, where almost half the population lives below the poverty line. The area was covered in floodwater.
“They sent us down to help evacuate families in those flood zones,” Heard said. “At the time, I remember the levees didn’t even matter anymore, there was so much water.”
Rolling into town, Heard couldn’t believe her eyes.
“We were in basically the biggest vehicles we had,” she said. “The tires were as tall as I am, and I remember being up high in the cab and just looking right out the door and there’s the water. I thought, ‘How are we even going to make it to these residences?'”
Some people couldn’t be reached at all — so they had to improvise.
“There was actually a family paddling out in a canoe from one of their houses,” Heard recalls.
Heard has not forgotten what it was like to be with those people.
“You could see the fear and the heartache from them watching everything disappear,” she said.
After six years in the National Guard, Heard still feels the call to serve. She works with Outdoor Adventures at Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, where she gets to work with vets who experienced trauma.
“I didn’t get to go overseas, so I really really enjoy being able to give back to those who have,” she said.
As the program’s name implies, Heard takes those vets on excursions and makes sure they have the resources to heal.
“We pull together some really exciting and fun elements alongside some curriculum about post-traumatic growth,” she said.
Heard has only been with Sheep Dog since August and a full member for a shorter time than that. She’s looking forward to helping more veterans as she continues her work.