FORT HOOD, Texas -- With cars lined up for several blocks prepared to enter, smoke lingering across the large parking lot, and grills being lit for as far as the eye could see, the Old Warrior Way Exchange here looked like it was hosting a tailgate party for a big-time football game.
While there were, indeed, cowboys on the scene, this wasn’t an NFL game. It was the nonprofit organization Cowboys 4 Heroes hosting the first of what the organizers said will become an annual event. Cowboys 4 Heroes was showing their appreciation for the Soldiers, families and veterans of the Fort Hood and Central Texas area by serving food. Lots of food.
More than 250 volunteers braved the chilly weather, manned real chuck wagons, and fired up more grills than could counted to serve 15,000 free meals, Oct. 24.
This was the first event for the nonprofit Cowboys 4 Heroes on Fort Hood, but the organization has been doing events like this at other military bases in Texas for nearly 12 years, Charles Norris, cofounder of Cowboys 4 Heroes said.
“Cowboys 4 Heroes was founded to support our Soldiers and military families,” Norris explained. “We work with them as they transition from active duty to becoming productive family members and civilians again. Today is just a way that we are able to come out and show our appreciation. We really enjoy getting to do these events.
“As our servers hand the food to them in their cars today, they’re going to tell them thank you for what they do,” Norris said. “We don’t think that enough people tell our Soldiers thank you.”
It was a huge undertaking with lots of people and literal tons of food being served.
“There’s a good 250 volunteers,” Norris said. “That doesn’t count MWR group that’s here. I would imagine there are 300 people here making all this work today.
“There are 5,000 pounds of sausage,” Norris said. “There are 2,500 pounds of hamburger patties, there are 5,000 hotdog wieners. And then everything that those get wrapped up in before you eat them. There’s a lot of food out here today.”
The majority of the food was donated by Praseck’s, a company that produces meat based in Texas, according to Norris.
The organization has conducted events like this, having served more than one million meals for the last 12 years at Joint Base San Antonio. Normally, they also have a carnival, live music and invite military families to hang out for a while. The coronavirus forced them to simplify things this year.
“If we are able to do this event again next year, maybe we will find a grassy spot that we can have chuck wagons actually roll out,” Greg Liles, the other cofounder of Cowboys 4 Heroes said. “It’s a fun, family event, and hopefully we are COVID complete by then, and hopefully we can eat, laugh and be together.”
Because that’s the point, Norris said. To eat together.
“Eating with someone and breaking bread just builds a different type of fellowship,” he emphasized. It’s why they chose food as the focus for their organization.
“One thing that makes everybody happy is getting free food,” Norris said. “Nothing is better than something grilled, something that comes to you in a different way that somebody gives to you.”