“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” ~ Matthew 11:28-29
A typical morning at Heroes Night Out involves a crisis, several pots of coffee and staff brainstorming to come up with creative solutions for Veterans and their families.
Heroes Night Out Green Zone Resource Center is a non-profit organization founded by Wes and Judy Pierce. They started with a few wallets filled with gift cards for wounded soldiers and their families to enjoy a day out while recuperating from their injuries at the Fisher House in San Antonio. Judy and Wes could not imagine at the time where their path would lead. If they would have known they might have stressed tremendously from the work that would be ahead of them. Luckily they had the vision and faith to simply put one foot in front of the other and trust where they would be lead. Right in front of their eyes, the organization grew to allow board members and volunteers who helped them with fundraising. The mission began to change as they saw that the needs were great for these wounded soldiers. The physical healings were happening but something was missing…their spirits were still wounded. Many of the wounded soldiers were dealing with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), depression, and other emotional issues. Wounded Warriors were calling them for emotional support and Judy and Wes began to invite them for holidays so they wouldn’t have to spend it all alone. Heroes Night Out began to evolve into an all encompassing service to help the veterans out any way that they could. If HNO could not help, they diligently located resources and even made the appointments and arrangements.
That was several years ago and HNO is now a 5,000 square foot Resource Center complete with a computer center, family room, board room, and several offices that are sublet to other Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s). The Green Zone Resource Center is named after a place that the military refers to as “safe” when overseas in hostile territory – the “Green Zone”. It is a haven for all who walk in the front door. They have a down to earth approach to veterans and a “come as you are” attitude that makes the center appealing. The first time a veteran walks in the door, they are greeted and asked to sign in and then they are shown where the coffee pot is. By the second visit veterans are no longer visitors, they are family. They know to help themselves to a hot cup of coffee.
“There is a magic that happens up on the hill”
War is an ugly entity. It creates deep wounds that often take years to heal, if ever. But wounds can heal with the right resources and one simple ingredient – LOVE. Healing does happen on the hill at the Green Zone. It is due to the heart and soul of the operation – Judy and Wes. Their enthusiasm and deep compassion for veterans is epidemic. Being in their company encourages others to do extraordinary things. The Green Zone is completely staffed and ran by volunteers five days a week. Volunteers are composed of veterans, family members of veterans and people who simply want to make a difference in someone’s life.
Being at the Green Zone is a spiritual experience for me. Words are spoken freely where veterans feel safe. It is not proper nor is it politically correct but it is real. The love and compassion that exists at HNO Green Zone encompasses all who walk in the front door. I’ve witnessed desperate men and women come in the front door ready to end their life only to watch them change their mind at the end of the day and give it one more try. That is the gift of this organization – changing and saving lives one day at a time.