I believe Warrior's Weekend is one of the greatest things this community does. I have lived in multiple states, worked for multiple papers, and have never covered anything like it before I came to Victoria.
The amount of love, support and generosity that is given to soldiers over the course of those three days is astounding. Not just the big shows of support which never fail to amaze me. The 1000+ people that show up to the Houston airport. The towns full of people who line their streets to wave to them. Those that come out to faith family to honor them every year at the ceremony and field of honor. And of course, Ron & Sherry and the volunteers who spend the year arranging flights, hotels, food, entertainment and transportation.
But the small shows of support are just as heart wrenching. The man we saw driving up the highway to put flags five feet apart, all along it 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 the 30 seconds that they zoom 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.
When Sgt. Darrin Hafeli, of New York, told us the story of how he joined the army to make his niece proud of him.
When 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."
When John Windham, 44, of Fort Bliss, told me that he decided to retire while he was still alive, for his wife.
When Officer Yvonne Stanley, 47, of the La Porte police department ran up to soldiers that come every year to hug and take a photo with them.
When Gage Thomas, 8, a little boy dressed in camo for the occasion, spent the entire time saluting and shaking the soldier's hands as they walked through the airport baggage claim, and then said that retired Sgt. Shane Parsons was his "best friend." Gage comes every year to the airport to see Shane when he arrives for Warrior's Weekend.
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, talks with Will Tarver, 7. Wood talked to Tarver 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. He 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 that if it isn't something you've had the time to witness firsthand, that you go out next year to be a part of it.
It's truly unforgettable.
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