By Alicia Lacy
Fort Hood Herald
Wes and Judy Pierce believe Heroes Night Out was something they were called to do.
The founders of the organization became part of a bigger family in 2004 when their son, Tim, joined the Army, which introduced them to Army recruiter Michael Clark. Later, two of Tim's brothers, Troy and Jeremy, enlisted in the Army as well, forging a deeper relationship with Clark.
Clark was injured in Iraq in 2008. After visiting Clark at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and talking with families at the Fisher House there, the Pierces discovered their calling: Heroes Night Out.
"You get put in certain situations and you discover there's a void," Wes said. "So we tried to fill that void."
The organization gives families of wounded troops a chance to take a break from the routine of surgery, therapy and rehabilitation.
The program provides families with "valuable and well-deserved family time and an opportunity to heal their hearts."
Wounded warriors and their families receive a gift wallet with six $50 gift cards to local restaurants, so the families can go to dinner or a sporting event, amusement park or other venue, the organization's website stated.
"They just need a break from the every day routine, a night out," according to www.heroesnightout.org.
Wes said the group has provided wallets to troops at Fort Hood, Fort Sam Houston and Fort Knox, Ky., and is continuing to expand as more Warrior Transition Units become aware of the program.
Based in Cedar Park, Wes and Judy supported the organization themselves but now operate off donations.
Since the inception of Heroes Night Out, the organization has distributed 50 wallets and had a picnic at Brooke Army Medical Center for 250 people, a picnic at Fort Knox for 475 people and are planning one at Fort Hood for more than 200 people, Wes said.
Wes said the group started handing out only one $50 gift card to families, but soon discovered that some of the families stay at the Fisher House from six months to one year, so giving the families a wallet of six gift cards allows them to go out about once a month.
Wes said the dinners give the wounded troops a way to "acclimate back into society and do it with the support of their family."
Wes and Judy traveled today to California with eight wounded Fort Hood soldiers who were scheduled to have eye surgery and other cosmetic surgeries. The Pierces plan to stay with the soldiers through Sunday.
The group expects to participate in the Stars and Stripes VIP Ride in Hollywood, Calif., to raise awareness for the Wounded Warriors Project.
"We've been blessed, and it keeps getting blessed," Wes said. "If we didn't go down and visit (Clark), we would've never discovered the need.
"It's simply just to tell them thank you for their sacrifice."