Click: Warrior's Weekend reflections
June 5, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.
Updated June 6, 2013 at 1:06 a.m.
I believe Warrior's Weekend is one of the greatest things this community does.
The amount of love, support and generosity that is given to soldiers over the course of those three days, May 17-19, is astounding.
It is not just the grand shows of support, which never fail to amaze me - like the more than 1,000 people who show up to the Houston airport. Or the towns full of people who line their streets to wave to soldiers. Or those who come out to Faith Family Church to honor them every year at the ceremony and Field of Honor.
And of course, Ron and Sherry Kocian and the volunteers who spend the entire year arranging flights, hotels, food, entertainment and transportation.
But it's also the smaller gestures of support that are incredibly heart wrenching.
We saw a man driving up the highway to put flags 5 feet apart for at least a mile, a feat that must have taken him hours. Or the father and son waiting all afternoon in the hot Texas sun in the bed of their truck so they could wave at the soldiers for just 30 seconds as they zoomed by.
We saw countless examples of hours of patience and dedication, just to provide the soldiers with that one additional glimpse that they are valued and loved.
And then there are the moments with the soldiers themselves.
Sgt. Darrin Hafeli, of New York, told us the story of how he joined the Army to make his niece proud of him.
Ann Sand, of Minnesota, told me how she came to Warrior's Weekend because she loves to meet new people and to "just be taken care of for a while."
John Windham, 44, of Fort Bliss, told me that he decided to retire while he was still alive, for his wife.
Officer Yvonne Stanley, 47, of the LaPorte Police Department, ran up to soldiers who come every year to hug and take a photo with them.
Gage Thomas, 8, a little boy dressed in camo for the occasion, spent the entire time saluting and shaking the soldiers' hands as they walked through the airport baggage claim, and then said retired Sgt. Shane Parsons was his "best friend."
And of course, one of my favorite moments was one that didn't make it into the paper, but touched my heart nonetheless.
Travis Wood, 30, of Utah, stopped to talk with Will Tarver, 7, at the Houston airport. Wood talked to Will about their legs and asked him if he swam, played sports and what activities he engaged in.
He told him "It's kind of cool, like having a laptop for a leg."
To see a soldier talking to a little boy with the same challenges was one of many inspiring moments for me.
Though this boy and his family were there to support the soldiers, this soldier found a way to give a little back. Wood said to Will's mother before he got onto the bus "Thank you, ma'am, for letting me talk to your son."
This is something I see over and over throughout Warrior's Weekend, this year and in the past - not only our local community doing everything they can to show these soldiers how important their sacrifices are, but the soldiers doing everything they can to show the community how much they appreciate them, too.
I hope if it isn't something you've had time to witness firsthand, that you go out next year to be a part of it.
It's truly unforgettable.
Click is a first-person photography feature that publishes occasionally in the Victoria Advocate.