Heroes Week 2020 has been canceled because of the coronavirus.
“We talked about it a long time, trying to find different ways to accommodate all of the needs of the wounded veterans and meet the COVID-19 safety precautions before making the decision to cancel,” Steve Mozian, program lead for Heroes Week, said. “Except for the one year I was out with cancer, I’ve been involved with every one of them and this decision was really tough.”
Each November for the past 14 years the Semper Fi Community Task Force of North Alabama has given a group of 30 wounded veterans from all branches of service and their spouses and caregivers from around the U.S. a cost-free week of recognition and relaxation.
The heroes have been honored at a Veterans Day Breakfast and Parade, Marine Corps Ball, fishing tournaments, the parade of boats, numerous lunches and dinners hosted by community groups and businesses. The week also gives the families a chance to take a break from the stresses of recovery and rehabilitation, and there is an opportunity for some much-needed appreciation and attention for the primary caregivers of the wounded veteran.
A lot of planning and volunteer hours go into the annual Heroes Week celebration.
“It’s like I’m a parent with empty nest syndrome because I’m supposed to busy planning this thing right now,” Mozian said. “It’s been really difficult for the entire board plus several of our volunteers who have all tried to figure out how we can do it. In the end, we just didn’t think we can do it to meet our standards. … This is a first-class event and we didn’t want to minimize the quality or the personal contact that the event is known for.”
Every aspect was analyzed from getting the wounded veterans to Huntsville, transportation once here, the hotel, and the personal interactions that make up Heroes Week.
“We just can’t do it and maintain the 6 feet of social distancing or face covering and other requirements,” he said. “It’s sad. This would have been our 15th year.”
Mozian said he remembers the first Heroes Week and is confident the group will pick up with Heroes Weeks in 2021.
“I’ve received disappointment emails from all over North Alabama,” Mozian said. “We talk about the unity and support that we have in this community and it fills my heart to hear from people who have participated in the past in some way about how sad they are we’ve had to cancel this year. There are many who are commiserating with us.”
In the meantime, he said the task force will find other ways to continue to support veterans in North Alabama.
“If anyone thinks of ways we can do that, we want them to let us know,” he said. “We are looking for the best we can offer and ready and willing if there is something we can support.”
Mozian said he can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He said the task force Semper Fi Racing Team, Veteran Outreach and Youth Outreach programs are still in play.
The task force partners with volunteers from the Huntsville Quarter Midget Association and generous sponsors to offer this unique opportunity for children of Gold Star families to participate in Quarter Midget Racing. The event exposes the children to principles of engineering and physics, while they participate in a fun sport that builds self-confidence, sharpens their awareness and hones their motor skills.
For Youth Outreach, members of the task force actively participate in mentoring, training, and service roles for local youth and recently launched the Bob Marshall Memorial Scholarship Program in local high schools.
The task force partners with like-minded local organizations and citizens to pool resources in support of local veterans, service members, wounded veterans and their families needing assistance for its Veterans Outreach program.