MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Semper Fi Community Task Force's Heroes Week is coming to a close after a week of treating war heroes to days on the lake, banquets in their honor, and aerial tours above the clouds. The only thing that remained was a big send-off before the honored guests hit the road.
The week began for more than 50 wounded warriors and their families with an arrival fitting for a rockstar so it was only fitting that they receive a farewell equivalent to the heroes that they are. Monday night the heroes arrived at Redstone Harley Davidson with a convoy of motorcycles and a police escort.
"The American people are behind these guys and girls, and we want them to remember that," explained Dave Bonwit, one of the week's organizers. "We want them to carry that forward and build on it."
Organizers say they saw how Vietnam veterans were treated post-war and that's why Heroes Week was started eleven years ago. "We have vowed that that's not going to happen to this generation."
Manuel Hernandez is one of those heroes, he was injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom. "There was a hole in the ground with 6 hand grenade rounds with a pressure plate on top and they painted it gray so it looked like the road."
Hernadez was able to swerve, but he didn't come out unscathed.
"The guy behind us, we didn't have time to radio them. Hit the pressure plate, it went off. It took our vehicle like it was going to flip forward, but then it slammed back down," he recalled.
"To see how they change from when they first came to tonight, it just warms your heart." Kirk and Patricia Ward have volunteered nearly every year during Heroes Week.
"The one thing about Huntsville, the people, they're giving and they support the military unconditionally," explained Kirk.
They both love to ride, but the cause hits close to home because their son is a recovering veteran.
Patricia says the experience has "been hard but we can relate to what these guys are going through because we've seen him."
As for Manuel, he may still be nursing a permanently injured shoulder but after a week of luxury, he'll go home with a hero's heart. "I do it for my brothers and my sisters, Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, whatever you are."
The war heroes and their families were recommended for the week of celebration by each of the four major military branches and they'll return back to their respective homes on Tuesday.