Heroes Homecoming, the largest commemoration in the state, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Director of Tourism Marketing Angie Brady shared some of the history of Heroes Homecoming with Greater Fayetteville Business Journal and offered some details about what to expect at this year’s events.
The initiative was originally introduced in 2011 by then Mayor Tony Chavonne as a way to say thank you to the Vietnam veterans.
For the first several years that the event took place, the theme for Heroes Homecoming revolved around different conflicts. One year was dedicated to honoring those who served in Iraq, another honored those who served in Afghanistan. Then 2018 happened to mark both 100 years of Fort Bragg and 100 years of Armistice Day or Veterans Day, and that inspired the theme of a centennial of service.
Following 2018, the theme for the event was more flexible and tended to reflect something relevant to the events of the year. An example of this is when they honored the medical military in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fort Bragg is the home of the 44th Medical Brigade, which is the largest medical unit in the army.
This year's theme is “Heroes at Home.” The events will be honoring the military families, the children, the spouses, the extended family and the community who also make sacrifices when someone in their household serves.
Heroes Homecoming is happy to have 35 partners this year and they have organized about 12 events from Nov. 5 to Nov. 12. Heroes Homecoming works hand in hand with the Cumberland County Veterans Council, the organization that plans the annual Veterans Day Parade which typically serves as the kickoff event for Heroes Homecoming’s variety of events.
Another annual event that will take place during Heroes Homecoming is the Chili Cookoff. Hope Mills Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Dirtbag Ales, will host the 4th Annual Hope Mills Chili Cookoff as part of Heroes Homecoming on Nov. 12 starting at 12 p.m. For $10 attendees can sample five different chilis and vote for their favorite. For $30, guests can sample every concoction entered in the contest. Then, at the end of the day, the top three chilis will be given a special award.
President of the Hope Mills Chamber Casey Ferris shared that a portion of the proceeds earned during the Chili Cookoff will be donated to the Cumberland County VAC, Veterans Affairs Council, to be earmarked to be used when families at home are struggling while their breadwinner is deployed or has been injured in the line of duty.
Heroes Homecoming’s organizers said their partners have a lot of creative liberty when planning their events. “We give them a theme, and it's up to them as to what the event is. It's within their bandwidth, what they can withstand doing and then we do all the marketing. So, we don't dictate, you know, what the event looks like. Only that it follows the theme and it's in a set, kind of parameter of dates,” shared Brady.
Brady also shared that FACVB does not typically do an event, but with it being the 10th anniversary of Heroes Homecoming, they decided to undertake the extra challenge. FACVB planned Family Fun Day which will take place at Sweet Valley Ranch after the Veteran’s Day Parade. The event is free admission and will feature food trucks, live music, and inflatables for the children to play on.
“... because our theme is honoring our heroes at home; we wanted to make sure that there was an event that did just that,” commented Brady.
Other events on the schedule include a wreath laying ceremony, a family fishing workshop, a Veterans Day Ceremony hosted by FTCC, and that is only a few of the many events planned to honor the brave individuals serving our country and their families as well.
Though it is a lot of work, Brady is grateful to be in charge of such a valuable event.
“I've been intimately involved in Heroes Homecoming since 2016, and I came to this community with no military affiliation and I say it every year with the partners around the table, but this by far, is my most favorite project that I get to work on every year. Because you know, our neighbors, the spouses of our co-workers, you know, just the guy sitting next to you at the restaurant, somehow, some way, someone that you come in contact with is somehow affiliated with Fort Bragg. And to make that sacrifice and to say, you're going to go and fight for our freedom and defend our home, it is, it's humbling, to say the least. I just absolutely am honored that I have been given the responsibility to chair this initiative. And for me, it's the right thing to do in this community…” said Brady.
When Brady took over chairing the initiative in 2016, it was expanded from just Fayetteville to all of Cumberland County. Brady and the other dedicated individuals and organizations working to organize Heroes Homecoming hope to continue to grow the annual event and to bring in more guests from outside of the county to enjoy these events honoring our members in service.
To view a complete list of events for this year’s Heroes Homecoming visit: www.heroeshomecoming.com
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