Helping a Hero celebrated “The Lee Greenwood Patriot Awards Gala” at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott and raised over $500,000. Held on December 2, 2020, funds from the evening will enable Helping a Hero to serve our post-9/11 severely wounded warriors through their Wounded Hero Home Program, emergency needs program, and other support programs. Notable attendees included Bass Pro Founder and CEO Johnny Morris, Kalahari Resorts Founder and CEO Todd Nelson, Woodforest National Bank President Jay Dreibelbis, Latina Voices Co-Host Sofia Adrogue, Stewart Builder’s Mark Stewart, and Herbster Angus Farms CEO Charles Herbster all of which helped make the 2020 Helping a Hero Gala a huge success. Plans are underway to build homes for deserving wounded warriors desperately needing specially adapted homes in Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Texas, as well as a special project in South Carolina.
This year, Helping a Hero honored five trailblazers with The Lee Greenwood Patriot Award for their leadership and commitment to our wounded warriors: NASCAR Legend Richard Childress; GOYA Foods CEO Robert “Bob” Unanue; South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem; U.S. Congressman Bill Flores (TX-17) who championed veteran reforms while in Congress; and multi-platinum recording artist Michael W. Smith.
“I have been supporting Helping a Hero for a decade and I’m humbled by the work they continue to do to help our wounded warriors,” said Lee Greenwood, who hosted the Annual Helping a Hero Gala and presented the Lee Greenwood Patriot Awards. “This year proves that there is nothing that can stand in the way of our love and support for our nation’s heroes. It is an honor to partner with Helping a Hero and help with giving back to our wounded warriors who sacrifice so much for our nation.”
Former TV news reporter Cynthia Hunt Mixon served as emcee for the event; former NFL team captain Jack Brewer blessed the evening with a message of hope and restoration; and music legend Lee Greenwood ended the evening with a medley of Christmas songs and an inspiring performance of “God Bless the USA,” which captured the spirit of the honorees, veterans, and attendees.
A dry eye could not be found in the ballroom when recently widowed Tawnee Gonzalez accepted the first Lee Greenwood Patriot Award of the evening on behalf of her decorated husband, Retired Marine Sergeant Marty Gonzalez who passed away on November 28, 2020, from a grenade blast that hit him during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq on December 12, 2004. Sgt. Gonzalez received three Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars during three firefights in 33 days. In 2012, Sgt. Gonzalez married the love of his life and several months later moved into his Helping a Hero specially adapted home. The Gonzalez family expressed their appreciation and gratefulness for the years of freedom he experienced in the home and the memories and love that abound within its walls.
“Sgt. Marty Gonzalez’s death came as a shock to all in our Helping a Hero family. The sacrifices our heroes make on the battlefield and once they are home can never be repaid,” said Helping a Hero’s Chairman Emeritus Meredith Iler. “Helping a Hero is stepping forward to navigate around the COVID-19 pandemic to support our nation’s heroes and their families in emergencies like Marty’s death and to continue to build adapted homes for our wounded warriors to support them on their road to recovery.”
“I am so honored by the sacrifices our U.S. Military veterans have made for America,” said Richard Childress, chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. “They are true heroes so sincere thanks go to Lee Greenwood and everyone at Helping A Hero for their work assisting severely wounded warriors returning from war.”
“Our Nation is indebted to patriot Lee Greenwood for his work with ‘Helping a Hero,’ which has made a meaningful difference in the lives of so many of our veterans and their families,” said Goya Foods CEO Bob Unanue. “The dedication and sacrifices of these American heroes in protecting our country and the freedoms we enjoy are truly remarkable and we are eternally grateful.”
“It was a true privilege to receive the Lee Greenwood Patriot Award,” said South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. “But the real highlight of my night was meeting the men and women who put their lives on the line in service to our nation. These folks now face a lifetime of challenges due to the injuries they sustained in combat. I was so blessed to be able to help honor and support them.”
“The oaths of office that our military men and women take are almost identical to the oaths for Members of Congress with one significant exception, our military personnel pledge everything – their lives, their limbs, and their futures to defend our Constitution,” said U.S. Congressman Bill Flores (TX-17). “Therefore, I have always endeavored to ‘Have their backs’ while serving them in Congress, because they truly ‘have the Nation’s backs’ while they serve.”
“We owe a deep debt of gratitude to those that fight for and defend our freedoms,” said multi-platinum recording artist Michael W. Smith. “That’s why I support Helping a Hero and the tremendous work that they do on a daily basis. Helping a Hero and those that support this great cause are making a huge impact on the many lives of our warriors who deserve all the help we can possibly give them. I applaud the work you are doing and I am honored to receive The Lee Greenwood Patriot Award.”
“We extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to Lee Greenwood, our sponsors, supporters, honorees, board members, advisory board members, and staff for making the event a huge success,” said Helping a Hero Chairman of the Board of Directors Hector Villareal. “I am honored to serve those that have served and sacrificed protecting our freedom. God bless the USA.”
Helping a Hero builds specially adapted homes with wider doors and hallways, an adapted shower and bathroom, flush entryways, and other safety features tailored to the injuries of each warrior. Other support programs include the emergency needs program, family retreats, recreation activities, and Operation Merry Christmas.