Chanting “USA,” waving flags and holding banners, students and faculty at The Brook Hill School welcomed 15 wounded warriors to its campus on Friday.
The warriors were flown into Tyler from San Antonio on Friday by the Texas Wounded Warrior Foundation to spend the weekend in East Texas, said Dick Goetz, chairman and co-founder of the organization.
The organization has events set up for the group all weekend including a concert, skeet shooting and golfing, but first on the list was to tour the American Freedom Museum at the school.
“This is special,” Goetz said. “Most of them don't get this kind of welcome home … It helps them in some self esteem. Most of them are average people who have endured some incredible circumstances.”
The group was given a police escort and were followed in by the Patriot Guard Riders of East Texas on motorcycles.
“I think the thing to remember is the people here are warriors,” said Army Sgt. Derek Kolb, a wounded warrior from Houston. “The heroes are the men, women and families we had to leave behind.”
The honorees were welcomed in a short ceremony.
“There really is no way to thank you for what you have given and what you have done for us,” Headmaster Rod Fletcher said. “To have the freedom we have today because of you is a incredible privilege to say that and look in your eyes and know who you are and you are here with us.”
Army Sfc. Joseph Willis said there are over 750 personnel in the warrior transition battalion, and the veterans with him ranged in rank from specialist, sergeant, sergeant first class and a captain varyting in ages between 23 years old to 45.
“We have a lot of times when we are going through rough days and we get patted on the back by different people,” Willis said. “But we don't do it for the accolades, we do it because we are proud of what we do. To see something like this when people get together from ages 10 to 65 and tell you 'thank you,' and they have never seen you before, it's a beautiful thing so we would really like to thank you, we really would.”
Participants observed a moment of silence for fallen heroes.
“It is because of them and their family sacrifices that we are here today and we were able to accept your wonderful welcoming,” said army Sgt. Kevin Blust.
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