Everybody knows that war can have horrible consequences and that those who return from it often bear enduring scars in their bodies and minds.
You’ll get an opportunity to help them this Saturday, October 10, at the third annual Tribute to Troops.
Starting at 6 p.m., you’ll be welcomed beneath a vast tented area at Titan Marine, 1430 N. Highway 1793 in Prospect.
Then, at 7 p.m., about 130 soldiers and veterans from Ft. Knox will arrive via two Toby Tours buses. They’ll be escorted by the Oldham and Jefferson county sheriff’s departments, the North Oldham Fire Department and as many as 100 motorcyclists with the Kentucky Patriot Guard Riders.
“We’re kind of treating it like a wedding, and they’re the guests of honor,” said Michael Greenwell, chairman of the Warrior Empowerment Foundation, the group that’s putting on the event.
The proceeds from ticket sales will go entirely to helping veterans. Half will go to Radcliff, Ky.-based USA Cares, which gives emergency financial support to post-9/11 service members, veterans and their family members. The charity has 14 chapters across the country, but the funds from the event will be earmarked for the Kentucky-Indiana area.
The Warrior Empowerment Foundation will spend the other half helping local veterans who don’t qualify for USA Cares programs.
Greenwell said his foundation has been working year-round to put together the event, and they’re expecting about 1,100 guests.
“If I can get you here and I can grab ahold of your heart and say, ‘Look, this is what we’re doing – you can see these people, and you can talk to a veteran and talk to their family and understand what they’re going through,’ you can’t wait to help. You can’t do enough.”
It’s all about bringing together civilians, active-duty military members and veterans, whether they just came home or they served back in World War II.
Guests will enjoy performances by local bands The Rumors, Famous on Friday and several singer-songwriters from Nashville, who will all be donating their time. Sysco Louisville and Tumbleweed will be pitching in to provide a dinner buffet.
And an auction will feature some exciting merchandise – like a 22-year-old bottle of Pappy Van Winkle and a Rolling Stones-autographed electric guitar. Vacation packages will include a trip to St. George Island in Florida, worth $14,000. There’ll be spa packages, a Big Green Egg cooker and lots of gift cards.
With nearly 20,000 square feet of covered space, the event will go on regardless of the weather.
Every facet of Tribute to Troops, from billboards to facilities, has been donated. And no one on the Warrior Empowerment Foundation board takes a salary.
In the event’s first two years, that generosity produced impressive results. In 2013, Tribute to Troops brought in $122,000 for veterans; last year, it raised $154,000.
“We’re very fortunate to be involved,” said Hank Patton, executive director of USA Cares.
As some veterans struggle to transition from combat service to civilian employment, Patton’s organization helps them pay for necessities like food and utilities and helps rescue them from impending evictions or foreclosures.
“In many cases, the wolf’s at the door,” he said.
That’s why USA Cares accepts applications for assistance 24/7 and responds within 48 hours. Once the veteran’s needs are verified, USA Cares makes payments to mortgage lenders, utility companies and other vendors.
The organization also assists veterans dealing with injuries, whether obvious or in the more subtle forms of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress. And it helps veterans find sustainable civilian careers.
“I am absolutely honored and blessed to be able to help,” Patton said. “When I served as an officer in the United States Army, I had to take care of folks. That was my first mission. The opportunity to continue to help them … is a blessing beyond belief.”
As Greenwell prepares the grounds for the event, he reflects on a life full of experiences and connections that seem to have all led to this.
He hails from a line of service members. And his company, Titan Marine, is a Department of Defense contractor. Through that work, he’s made friends with many men and women in uniform and been a close witness to the challenges they face.
“It was time to give back,” he said. “I’ve been in business for 32 years now, and I know God didn’t put me here to fix boats.” VT
Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 the day of the event. For more information about the Warrior Empowerment Foundation or to purchase tickets, visitwefoundationky.org/events. For more information about USA Cares, visit usacares.org.