Victor Lovelady—The American Breedby Representative Ted Poe
Posted on 2015-01-20
in the house of representatives
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, two years ago, one of my
constituents--Mr. Victor Lovelady--was killed in Algeria after being
taken captive by terrorists. Before his death, Victor displayed some of
the very best qualities of the American spirit: courage, compassion,
and selflessness. I would like to take a moment to tell you his story.
Like many Americans, Victor Lovelady was a hard worker who put in long hours to provide for his family of four. For most of his life, Victor worked as an industrial engineer and master electrician in his hometown of Nederland, Texas.
However, when work in his area slowed, he spent nearly three years traveling back and forth daily to work in Houston from Nederland. He did this so that his children would not have to change schools. The 150 mile round trip was an hour and a half each way. After his kids finished high school, Victor moved to Atascocita, Texas (25 miles north of Houston) where I live Congressional District 2. Victor never had a pension plan and always had to pay his family's insurance by himself. He never had more than two weeks off in a year. He longed to be able to retire and spend more time with his wife and children.
When Victor was given the opportunity to work overseas for British Petroleum he weighed the pros and cons. He knew a few years at this new job would provide him with enough money to retire and be with his family. He also believed that working in Africa would be safe.
On January 9, 2013, Victor arrived in the remote area of In Amenas, Algeria to begin his new job at the BP Gas facility. In the early hours of January 16th, an army of gun wielding terrorists crashed their trucks through the gates of the gas plant. Within minutes they had seized control of the facility and held hundreds of its employees hostage. Victor Lovelady and several other workers were having tea when suddenly a colleague entered the cantina with a gunshot wound to his stomach. The man had been shot when Mokhtar Belmokhtar's al-Qaeda linked terrorists stormed the facility and opened fire on the innocent workers.
Putting thoughts of himself aside and disregarding the sound of gunfire, Victor began cleaning and dressing the man's wound. Victor then hid him in a food container for his safety.
Even as the sound of gunshots grew louder and louder, Victor immediately lifted other men into the cantina's false ceiling to hide them from the attackers. In total, Victor secretly secured three men into the ceiling hiding spot. Heavily armed jihadists were going room to room at the plant to capture victims. Only when it sounded like the militants had finally entered the cantina did Victor quickly try to hide and save himself. Unfortunately, he fell and injured his ankle attempting to climb into the ceiling. Moments later, the terrorists captured him and held him hostage. The facility was under the control of the terrorists for three grueling days. Hostages were rounded up one by one, handcuffed and strapped with explosive devices. The terrorists were threatening to blow them up if the U.S. and Algeria did not release jihadi prisoners.
Sadly, Victor was killed when Algerian military forces moved in to rescue the victims and attack the terrorists. In total 40 civilians from 10 countries were killed by the terrorists and in the rescue attempt. 29 terrorists were also killed.
Victor's selfless and heroic actions saved four lives that day. A once ordinary man became extraordinary in the face of danger and violence. Courage like this should be applauded and remembered. This is why I nominated Mr. Lovelady for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our nation's highest civilian honor and recognizes individuals who have made ``an especially meritorious contribution'' to our society. It is clear that Victor Lovelady not only meets, but exceeds this standard.
The events in Algeria last year have disappeared from public view in the sands of time. The media has moved on to other tragic events. There have been more terrorist attacks throughout the world. Americans and non-Americans have been murdered. But it is the Americans such as Victor that we should [[Page E82]] always remember and honor. While we continue to mourn their loss we should, to paraphrase General George Patton: ``Thank God that such people ever lived.'' Two years after his death, Victor Lovelady may not be a household name, but there is no doubt that he is an American hero. He worked hard to provide an honest living and when in danger, thought first to protect others instead of himself. When people hear Victor's story today, they are inspired because of his acts of bravery, conviction, and compassion--in other words, to act as a true American. Four people live today, because Victor died hiding them.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that you and all of our colleagues take a moment today to remember the heroism of Victor Lovelady. Our prayers are also with his wife, Maureen, and his two children, Erin and Grant, who carry on his legacy. I am honored to call this Texan my constituent and we will continue to honor the sacrifice he made as a courageous husband, father, and American.
Victor Lovelady was from an amazing breed--the American breed.
And that's just the way it is.