Hundreds of Wounded Veterans Recognized at Special Church Event

Contributed By Linda Talbot, Church News contributor

  • 31 May 2017

City of La Porte, Texas, police chief Kenith Adcox with Blue Knight volunteer at the veterans’ reception.  Photo by Kelly Foss.

Article Highlights

  • Each year, Warrior’s Weekend recognizes, connects, and honors wounded veterans.
  • Over 900 wounded veterans participated in the 2017 event.
  • The gratitude and support of the community had a huge impact on the veterans.

“You just don’t know what it’s like in combat and what service men and women go through for the security of our nation.
… Personal acts of support and appreciation are so powerful.” —John Heimburger, Church member and Vietnam War veteran 

The 11th annual Warrior’s Weekend honoring wounded veterans from all over the nation began with a celebratory dinner at the Summerwood Stake Center in Houston, Texas.

F. David Escobar of the Harris County Constable’s Precinct 4 office, also serving as the president of the Trinity River (Spanish) Branch in the stake, organized the motorcade for the veterans. The motorcade included the Blue Knights and law enforcement officers from all over southeast Texas.

Much-needed appreciation

Escobar spoke of the huge impact the flags, signs, and cheers had on the warriors. “Local social media outlets and community Facebook pages began to put out information about the procession route from the airport to the stake center, resulting in hundreds coming out along the route, joining those at the stake building to welcome these heroes, many of whom have never received a welcome home. The words uttered by these brave men and women: ‘Is this for us? God bless Texas,’” Escobar said.

Ron Kocian, who served in the National Guard and is president of Warrior’s Weekend, greeted the hundreds of Purple Heart recipients and their caregivers. In his welcome, he explained that Warrior’s Weekend was created in 2007 to recognize and connect wounded veterans and honor them with a free weekend of fishing and relaxation in Port O’Connor, two and a half hours southwest of Houston.

By Saturday there would be over 900 participants, some first-timers and some returning, supported by hundreds of volunteers, over 400 boats and crew, and donations of food, lodging, and transportation. “We thank The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for providing this meal and treating us so well,” Kocian said.

“We are happy to provide this service,” said James C. Banks, president of the Summerwood Stake. “We received feedback from the committee that they made a request to come back here for dinner. The community really enjoys coming together to support the men and women of the military.”

A chorus of “thank you” arose from the tables, which were filled with veterans from California, Ohio, Washington State, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Missouri, among other states. Each table was decorated with placemats made by children and letters to each warrior handwritten by teens from the Church.

Church member and highly decorated retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel John Heimburger greets and encourages the recently returned wounded veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Marine veteran and his family attend the Warrior’s Weekend recognizing wounded veterans. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Patriotism and gratitude. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Veterans enjoy the gratitude of the children. Photo by Kelly Foss.

 

A community effort

This was the first Warrior’s Weekend attended by wounded veterans staying at Camp Hope Houston, which provides interim housing, healing, and hope in a caring and positive environment for veterans and their families suffering from combat-related PTSD. Kevin Jefferey, a Camp Hope mentor, brought the group to the dinner. A Canadian who came to the United States following 9/11 and enlisted to help battle terrorism, Jefferey expressed appreciation for the recognition: “This means so much to us, to be honored. The connections they will make will mean so much in their recovery.”

Glenn Budd, a fireman with the Coast Guard from the Port Lavaca Branch in the Bay City Stake, was able to spend time with some of the warriors. “They were amazed and impressed at the way the community came together,” he said. “It’s like in the cleanup after Hurricane Sandy. Church members came together with the community, went out of our way to help. These vets felt remembered, loved.”

According to Church member and Vietnam War veteran John Heimburger, “You just don’t know what it’s like in combat and what service men and women go through for the security of our nation; plus, all of these veterans were wounded in combat. Personal acts of support and appreciation are so powerful.”

 

Veterans enjoy the gratitude of the children. Photo by Kelly Foss.

 

Primary children’s artwork greets the wounded veterans. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Vietnam veteran Brother John Heimburger with a young family. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Lines of wounded veterans are met by large numbers of greeters at the Summerwood Texas Stake Center. Photo by Kelly Foss.

The wounded veterans were transported to the church on buses. Along the procession route, wounded veterans had the buses stop so that they could get out and interact with the local people lining the route. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Flag-waving time for local families. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Primary children’s artwork greets the wounded veterans. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Young people interact with those who have paid a high price for service to the nation. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Local law enforcement officials helped out at the event. Photo by Kelly Foss.

A group of wounded veterans enjoying the event in their honor. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Children wait in line to greet the wounded veterans. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Representatives from the Retired Police Officers Association also greeted the veterans. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Church cultural hall converted into a reception area for the Warrior’s Weekend recognizing wounded veterans. Photo by Kelly Foss.