Urbana resident Gary Hefner wants to help veterans take time for family through the National Warrior Foundation. Hefner founded the nonprofit organization with the goal of allowing every soldier returning from Afghanistan and Iraq to take vacation and spend quality time with their families — at no cost. According to Hefner, veterans can build a stronger relationship with their families by taking vacations together.
Based in Urbana, the National Warrior Foundation will serve veterans in Frederick, Montgomery and Carroll counties. The foundation, which is in the process of obtaining 501C tax-exempt status, will work in partnership with other organizations, including Operation Second Chance, to help veterans readjust to everyday life. Hefner also would like to build a golf course resort to bring in more revenue to enable veterans to take a family vacation.
His motivation is simple: “I really like to give back to people,” he said.
Hefner, who has worked for 22 years in the home building business, said he would also like to help veterans by renovating the homes of soldiers with disabilities. In addition, he would like to assist soldiers in finding work after they return home.
“We have opportunities to find employment for soldiers in the construction fields, marketing, and sales fields,” Hefner said. He would also like to provide transitional housing to soldiers who need a place to live.
After his own father, who was a veteran, committed suicide when Hefner was 33 years old, Hefner decided to spread his message about the importance of a man’s role in the family and building strong family relationships. So far, he has told his story to 200 soldiers. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), he said he’s thankful to share a lesson “that a lot of guys need to hear.”
Hefner, married for 20 years with two daughters ages 11 and 19, said he did not get to go on vacations as a child. Three years ago, he was able to take a wonderful vacation to Disneyland with his whole family. It was an “incredible vacation,” an experience that he’d never had growing up, he said.
Adam Kisielewski, vice president of Operation Second Chance, said Hefner has got “a lot of dedication and his heart is in the right place.” Kisielewski plans to work together with Hefner “to continue to provide assistance to veterans and their families when they need it the most.”
Kisielewski said Operation Second Chance plans to help Hefner achieve his vision of providing retreats for soldiers and their families. He would also like to help veterans get more time away from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda by providing shorter retreats or trips to events such as baseball games.
“I’ve had so much positive feedback about the foundation,” said Hefner. “We’ve had a lot of contributions come in that we’ve just passed out to help different soldiers.”
As a fundraiser for the National Warrior Foundation, Hefner plans to hold a golf tournament on Sept. 24 at Blue Mash. For more information, visit www.nationalwarriorfoundation.com.