'Real heart of America' treated to BBQ, music, camaraderie
April 15, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- It wasn't just the bright sunshine that lit up the afternoon, but also the smiles on the faces of wounded warriors and their Families as they enjoyed plenty of barbecue, music and camaraderie.
The Good Ol' Boys, an organization of Texas outdoorsmen and women, put out a Ponderosa-sized spread of brisket, smoked sausage and all the fixings for about 200 military members being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center, along with their Families and friends, at the Warrior and Family Support Center April 8.
The Almost Patsy Cline Band provided plenty of boot-scootin' music and a number of sports celebrities added their star power to the afternoon.
"This is an opportunity for everyone who wants to show our wounded warriors and others at BAMC that we appreciate what they do," said Roger Bales, one of the founders of the Good Ol' Boys. "It's an opportunity for all these volunteers you see out here to meet the real heroes of this nation.
"We put on barbecues and hunting trips for service men and women and try and show them a good time," said Bales, who also works for the Texas Department of Information Resources.
"The best part of doing this is when everyone walks away from here with smiles on their faces and bellies full of good barbecue. We just hope these young men and women understand and realize that they are the real heart of America."
Bales said the group was formed six years ago when he and several others were asked to help organize a barbecue for wounded warriors. After recruiting volunteers to run the show and sponsors to supply the vittles, the Good Ol' Boys kept bringing the event back every year, and it grew over time.
"We wanted to do this to show this generation of warriors just how important they are to this nation and to folks like us," Bales added.
"This is about what we can do as a community for them and what the American spirit is all about."
While the sports celebs in attendance are usually in the spotlight wherever they go, on this afternoon they were the ones who felt honored to be in the presence of so many men and women who have fought and sacrificed for their nation.
"Coming here today helps my staff and I put a face on what we see in the news," said Larry Coker, head coach for the fledgling University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners football team.
"These are real people and it is such an honor for us to come out and meet them, sit down and talk football."
"I'm glad we could bring some encouragement to the troops and their families today. We wanted to come out and say thank you for their sacrifice and their patriotism."
Also greeting the troops was local NFL football legend Priest Holmes. "I have an appreciation for the military not only because I'm from San Antonio, but from my parents' military background, with my mother and stepfather both being in military," Holmes said.
"I get excitement and joy to be able to come to the WFSC to talk football and have a good time. It's great to meet these people and their Families," said Holmes.
"We can never really understand what these Soldiers go through when they're overseas. It's good that when they come home, they have people that care about them. It's a breath of fresh air to talk to these folks."
Providing the soundtrack for the afternoon, the Almost Patsy Cline Band entertained with songs from the late singer, as well as covers of classics from Bob Wills, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Mel Tillis, Merle Haggard and Connie Smith.
"We've been coming out for three years to play this event," said bassist/vocalist Lanette Pennell.
"We do this because we have sympathy and empathy for the fighting men and women and their Families. We see the hurt and the worry when they are separated and when they get injured. It really tears our hearts out that that is even happening. We want to show them how much we appreciate them and their sacrifices."
"Music has a healing power all its own and we want to provide a little bit of healing and solace for these folks who have given so much and sacrificed so much for us," added keyboardist/vocalist Vicki Gillespie.
"Our country is free because of boys and girls like the ones here today. Their lives will be forever changed by what happened, so we just want to show them we appreciate all that they've given."
"Events like today are great," said Sgt. Justin Martwick, an Arizona National Guardsman recovering from injuries in an auto accident. Receiving treatment for a spinal cord injury at BAMC for more than a year, Martwick said he has appreciated "how military-friendly San Antonio is. I was moved into the warrior transition barracks in January and I can walk to the WFSC from there. It's nice to be able to get out of my room and enjoy all this and all the other events."
"This is what it's all about. It all comes down to action, not words. You can slap a bumper sticker on your car or truck and say you support the troops, but this how you support the troops."
"It's humbling because I have people coming up to me and saying 'thank you,' when it's me who should be thanking them. What we do here is a small thing," Bales said.
"What they do is huge."