Saturday afternoon, I had the privilege of taking 41 of my employees and their family members to volunteer at the Warrior Weekend to Remember in Middletown, Ohio. We got on the bus at 3 p.m., expecting a fun afternoon of volunteering to help support wounded warriors and ended up getting back on the bus at 9 p.m. profoundly changed.
The Warrior Weekend to Remember (http://warriorwtr.com) was created in 2014 as a five-day series of events for disabled veterans and Gold Star Families (families of fallen service members) to allow them to experience life-enriching activities and bonding with other service members and the community. Activities include night bow-fishing, rides in hot air balloons and aircraft, indoor go-karting, golf, a country music concert, a baseball game, skydiving, a multi-gun shoot and several VIP dinners. It is intended to give these warriors who have given so much for their country, our country, a chance to relax, recharge, re-integrate into civilian life and enjoy the company of other veterans and veteran families who understand their struggles and sacrifices.
Our part in it was selling t-shirts, split-the-pot tickets and wristbands in the crowd, as well as encouraging everyone at the event to come to an award ceremony the warriors were participating in on the main stage that evening. In a little less than two hours, we were able to raise more than $1000 for the organization and drum up support for the warriors. At the awards ceremony, the crowd was standing-room only, which was exactly what we wanted.
The best part of the day, by far, was getting to meet all the warriors before the awards ceremony. We had an opportunity to speak with all of them and thank them for their service. The most shocking part, though, was that they were thanking US for coming out and volunteering. They were sincerely grateful for our support and the work we did, even though it was absolutely nothing compared to what all of them have done.
I was completely humbled by the experience. As a disabled veteran myself, connecting with men and women who have made incredible sacrifices – well beyond what happened to me – because they believe in our country and volunteered to protect it is very enriching. These warriors were kind, generous with their time and so excited to be able to have the experiences they did. One man, a 93-year-old WWII veteran, went skydiving for the first time on Friday and said it was the best weekend of his life.
During the awards ceremony, there wasn’t a dry eye among the Legion volunteer crew. The event recognized a select honorable few who had the fortitude to step forward and agree to represent all those men and women who gave to this country and could not be there on that stage. They were insistent on not being called “heroes.” They just did what they were asked to do, what they volunteered to do and what they believed was right. And they continue to serve their brothers and sisters even after leaving the service.
On the bus ride home, we all discussed how this was the best, most meaningful volunteer activity we’ve done as a company. And we’ve done a lot. It was simply an honor to be among those warriors and Gold Star Families and to play a small part in helping them continue the Warrior Weekend to Remember. It was a powerful reminder that veterans leave their mark on the history of this nation and continue to add to the foundation of this country. Everyone who serves deserves to be honored, but these warriors left behind pieces of themselves to protect the freedoms we enjoy every single day, for low pay and in terrible working conditions. It is incumbent upon us to remember their sacrifice and do everything we can to make their life after the military as meaningful, rich and rewarding as possible.
By Legion CEO, Tony Coutsoftides