Saints in Texas Coordinate Celebration to Honor Wounded War Veterans

Contributed By By Janet Coleman and Linda Talbot

  • 5 September 2014

The U.S. flag waves proudly at the Houston Texas Temple.

Article Highlights

  • U.S. Representative Ted Poe, R-Texas, thanked the veterans for the sacrifices they have made.
  • Ten buses were used to transport over 260 veterans to the event in Port O’Connor.
  • Dozens of volunteers from the Houston Texas Summerwood Stake helped to set up, cook, serve, and clean up at the event.

“The Church has been asked to host this [dinner] annually, and I hope we are able to do so. … These veterans have served our country, and it is a blessing for us to be able to serve them. It’s important for us to participate because it sends a message that we are all working toward the same goal. And that is to make where we live a better place to live. And it is what Christ teaches us to do, to serve one another.” —James Banks, president of the Houston Texas Summerwood Stake

PORT O’CONNOR, TEXAS

Harris County Precinct 4 Lt. David Escobar, president of the Trinity River (Spanish) Branch in the Houston Texas Summerwood Stake, was tasked with finding a location for bringing together hundreds of wounded warriors for a celebratory dinner to kick off Wounded Warrior Weekend, held annually in Port O’Connor, Texas, a two-and-a-half hour drive southwest of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Summerwood stake center was the perfect venue,” President Escobar said. Houston Texas Summerwood Stake President James Banks agreed. The dinner was then organized for about 160 warriors and their escorts.

“That number quickly grew to 200 and then to about 260,” said President Escobar. “We needed 10 buses to bring them to the stake center for the evening.”

More than 100 community and Church members came with families, friends, neighbors, and JROTC cadets in uniform to welcome the warriors as they disembarked from the buses May 16. After shaking hands with members of the cheering crowd, the vets sat down to a dinner.

Dozens of volunteers from the 10 units in the Summerwood Stake helped set up, clean up, and serve the dinner under the direction of Jennifer Hales, stake Relief Society president. A local grocery store donated the drinks and patriotic centerpieces, a Mexican restaurant catered the dinner, and a local band provided country music. Stake members made desserts, as did members of the National Memorial Ladies, an organization that supports families at the funerals of fallen warriors.

Sister Hales said many of the volunteers thanked her for the opportunity to provide their professional and personal services for the warriors. “It was a unique opportunity to say thanks to the veterans, and I don’t think a lot of people really know how to do that,” Sister Hales said.

The warriors themselves repeatedly thanked the volunteers for the warm welcome and all the work done on their behalf. Church members were happy to partner with members of the community in this effort.

U.S. Representative Ted Poe, R-Texas, thanked the veterans for the sacrifices they have made. Congressman Poe greeted many of the warriors and added his support of the event. “The greatest casualty of war is to be forgotten. Americans should never forget the sacrifice of our warriors, especially those who have been wounded in battle,” Congressman Poe said.

Ron Kocian, president of Wounded Warrior Weekend, was on hand to greet and speak with the veterans. In 2007, Mr. Kocian invited 55 wounded veterans from Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio to enjoy a free fishing weekend.

“We thought we’d just give them a great day, a fun day going fishing,” said Mr. Kocian. “And it’s just grown by leaps and bounds.” Now, wounded veterans from around the country meet and travel to Port O’Connor for a few days of socializing, reconnecting, and fishing. Volunteers help with food, lodging, and transportation.

President Banks said, “The Church has been asked to host this [dinner] annually, and I hope we are able to do so. … These veterans have served our country, and it is a blessing for us to be able to serve them. It’s important for us to participate because it sends a message that we are all working toward the same goal. And that is to make where we live a better place to live. And it is what Christ teaches us to do, to serve one another.”