“We created the organization, and we want to make sure that no one ever forgets the sacrifice that they made.”
That’s Peter Hernandez, who works for the Wounded Officers Initiative. Once a year, the organization, whose slogan is “So their sacrifice is never forgotten,” organizes and hosts the Heroes Weekend. Hernandez says the Heroes weekend has a dual purpose: To recognize wounded officers’ sacrifice; and to connect them with other wounded officers, so they realize they’re not alone.
“It’s the only event like this in the entire nation,” he says, where organizers “gather wounded officers from around the country, and [then] they participate in a bunch of events throughout the weekend.”
Hernandez and the Wounded Officers Initiative, with many helpers, gather wounded law enforcement officers and first responders from around the country, fly them down to Florida, and have them attend a Welcome dinner, a Gala, a Florida-style Barbecue, among other events. Hernandez identifies the importance of Heroes Weekend in allowing wounded officers to meet one another, hear each other’s stories, and offer friendship to each other.
But, the Wounded Officers Initiative, does a lot more than just organize this once-a-year event. Hernandez recognizes society’s tendency to hear the words “non-life threatening” in a news story about an injury in the line of duty, and to “get lulled into a false sense that everything is O.K.” Often, “they survived, but survival is only temporary,” Hernandez says, referring to wounded officers who have lived through injuries only to die from complications later on. Furthermore, this narrative fails to mention the lifelong changes wounded officers often endure following being hurt in the line of duty, such as becoming paralyzed, or dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There’s so many that have sacrificed, and just didn’t die, and so many have looked past them,” Hernandez says. “We’re making sure that they’re no longer in the shadows.”
Organizers realize officers injured in the line of duty aren’t the only victims. Hernandez notes that the organization has committed to “recognize the plight of the families with the wounded.”
Hernandez has no direct personal connection to the cause. He isn’t a wounded officer himself, and he has never had a close friend or family member seriously injured on the job. He says he got involved “simply because I saw there was a need.”
That’s common, he said: “Each and every person who is involved in the association is involved because it’s the right thing to do.”
How can you help? Well, Hernandez says the biggest thing is spreading awareness. “We’re the only organization for wounded law enforcement in the entire nation, so awareness is key.” You can start by visiting the website, here.