Two of HPD’s Harvey first responder heroes detail ‘lifetime experience’ of all-expense-paid trip to Series

Tom Kennedy

Several of the HPD officers who went on Mattress Mack’s all-expense-paid trip to Game 6 of the 2017 World Series (won by the Houston Astros!) said it was the trip of a lifetime.

“We were able to fly to LA to watch Game6 with the Astros,” Officer Alex Mayo told the Badge & Gun. “The whole thing was a thrill. It will last a lifetime. It will be a story I can tell my grandkids. I’m only 27, so I have a long time to remember it.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Mayo and Officer Chase Cormier were chosen for their tireless, dedicated commitment to their duties during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.


Treated like Royalty


Mattress Mack, aka Jim McIngvale, the “tireless” owner and operator of Gallery Furniture, paid for the memorable trip to honor first responders and military veterans for their work in the wake of Harvey. Mayo said there was “a whole plane-full” of people, estimating about 80 to 100 in all.

“We were treated like royalty,” Cormier said, on duty at Fox but still excited about the experience. He and Mayo used practically the same terms and descriptions about their experiences.

“Went up to Dodger Stadium. It was a great experience. Houston in the morning and LA in the evening for the World Series to support our guys. Unfortunately, we didn’t win. The experience – being able to experience that with fellow first responders and veterans – was really the best part of it.”

Mattress Mack purchased the tickets and chartered a 737 at Million Air, a private facility that operates out of Hobby Airport, and relied on sources such as Michael Berry of Radio Station KTRH to distribute the tickets.

Berry took email nominations and selected several dozen through a raffle. Mattress Mack himself selected “nominees” personally from his furniture store.

Mayo and Cormier enthusiastically detailed the royal treatment they received.

“He (Mattress Mack) filled up a plane. He had Michael Berry deal with first responders and vets. Others were selected by him. We got to the plane and he had a bunch of boxes with orange Astros shirts.

“He provided them to everybody so he could fill the stands with orange. We were in right field three rows up. They were premier seats. It was my first World Series game.”

The television viewers back home in Houston had to be impressed with the sea of orange out in right field, believing that the Dodger fans felt the presence of the orange.

Mayo and Cormier said the first class accommodations were ever-present.

“We were all very ecstatic,” Cormier recalled. “Buses with pizza were waiting for us on the bus. There was typical LA traffic. We were five miles from Dodger Stadium and it took and hour and a half to get there.

“On way back we stopped at In and Out Burger. Somebody had Mattress Mack’s credit card and we got whatever we wanted paid for. We were nothing but a sea of orange and also there was a sea of Dodger fans. They thought, ‘What is going on here?’


Their Special Work


“They saw that everybody was from Texas and we were (all of a sudden) mingling with Dodger fans. There was more food on the plane. We got back at 6 in the morning.

“It was a long day but well worth the experience.”

Lt. Randy Upton, HPOU legal counsel Bob Armbruster (a proud Marine and HPD retiree) and several other HPD officers were on the special trip.

Berry contacted HPOU President Ray Hunt for his ideas on possible ticket recipients in the Department. Mayo’s name kept cropping up.

“Ray Hunt called me and chose me out of the Department to go to LA,” said Mayo, a member of the HPD Dive Team.

“We did swift-water rescue missions and operations. We used Zodiac inflatable boats for boat operation rescues.”

This specialty work entailed rooftop and high-water rescue. Mayo and other officers were assigned to different areas that were thickly populated and in high water. He rescued more than 100 Houstonians. The 16 members of the Dive Team rescued more than 3,000 people.

Rescues, Mayo said, “were all in a day’s work.”

Cormier used his experience as a reservist in the U. S. Army to the fullest in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, put to use his in-depth experience serving as an Army liaison to local non-governmental agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of Fox assigned to work with the Coast Guard.

The 12-year veteran and “next guy to go to helicopter school” was assigned to help the U. S. Coast Guard to help “in all air operations.” The guard coordinated every airborne operation in Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast all the way to Beaumont.

“The Coast Guard was running the entire air space, coming in and rescuing people off rooftops but had no place to put them,” Cormier explained. “What were we supposed to do with these people. We needed landing zones and shelters.”

Cormier’s job was to find these facilities and coordinate the logistics. It was a non-stop procedure just like those conducted by numerous Houston police officers. He often focused on non-life-threatening rescues and getting the people to dry land, first from inside the Loop 610 but also extending from Katy to Beaumont.

Headquarted at the Ellington Coast Guard Center, Cormier coordinated Operation Barbecue Relief, a huge volunteer organization with chefs in all 50 states who work to supply food to first responders and major disaster victims.

Cormier’s job was to find the people in areas where food was needed the most and get the airborne deliveries to land in the appropriate locations. “The first day 20,000 hot meals were delivered and we worked our way up to 35,000 per day,” he said.

Cormier worked “with all agencies” to coordinate logistics, feeding first responders who were too busy to stop and find food on their own. He had to tackle details such as weight of the food matched with the capabilities of different sized helicopters in timely fashion.

“We were just part of the chain,” the officer explained.

Both officers were chosen by either Berry or McIngvale or both. Their Harvey duties were unforgettable but were topped off with a trip to the World Series.