Fifteen years ago today, the world changed forever. My life, and life as I knew it, would never be the same. When I saw the Twin Towers on fire, people jumping to their deaths, and then the buildings crumbling to the ground, I wondered how anyone could do such a thing to a country that had been so good to so many people.
The first surreal scene I recall seeing after that fateful day was the empty sky surrounding Los Angeles International Airport. A sky that was usually full of planes was eerily silent. War had come to our homeland, and I knew we had to do something to help our country. The only thought I had was to help families that had been devastated by the attacks on 9/11.
A month after the tragedy that rocked our nation occurred, I gathered a few friends and organized a golf tournament. We called ourselves 9-11 Help America, and our slogan was: “Together We Can Make a Difference”. Then we proceeded to see if the slogan was factual.
On Nov 29, 2001, we accomplished our goal. We raised $10,000 in all and donated $7,500 to the family of Michael McDonnell, a man who was killed in the attacks. The remaining balance was set aside to start a foundation designed to help the families of others killed that day.
I started to chronicle what we were trying to do and imagined what could be accomplished by others with much more talent and resources. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that idea would turn into anything other than a one-time project. However, we soon realized we could make a difference, and we needed to act on the principle that “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me”.
Today we call ourselves Wounded Heroes of America, and we have had the privilege of serving those who have served our country and have paid such a high price doing so. To date, we’ve helped more than 150 families—mostly in Southern California—and in the process, we’ve managed to create an extended family of vets. We’ve done it all based on the idea of on-the-job training and the principle of “You learn as you go”.
Our organization has proved that one person can make a difference. We originally thought we needed more money and more talent, but if there’s no passion, money and talent don’t mean a thing.
This video is of our trip to New York to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. We’d like to give special thanks to one of our brothers, USMC Erick Zenteno, for all of his help documenting the journey we’ve been on over the years.