Touching the Lives of Vets
A retired U.S. Marine Corps family from AZ, the Lewises became vacation owners of a Lawrence Welk Resort Villa (LWRV) in the nineties, after being guests at the resort for a number of years. Little did they realize then that their purchase would evolve into future luxurious vacations for military Wounded Warriors as well. Priceless memories expanded not only for their own family, but for countless other military families as well.
Husband Bud is a military veteran (1942—1969). He and his late wife, Jo, have three children and six grandchildren together. His father (WWI) and son (Vietnam) are also Marine Corps vets.
Bud and Jo lost many friends to war over those 27 years — which covered WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Many of the widows were friends of Jo, and she always felt she could not do enough to help them. The families stayed in touch over the years — with just a few still living today.
The couple enjoyed their LWRV vacations at least once a year thereafter, until 2008, when they converted to Platinum Points Owners. Unfortunately, this was the last full resort vacation they experienced; Jo passed away in 2012, after 69 years of marriage.
Upon retiring from another career in civilian life, Bud and Jo traveled extensively until she was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2008. They realized they could no longer use all the Points they had been accumulating since 1982, even though their children and grandchildren were also using their Points. They had enjoyed so many vacations at numerous resorts for so many years, they did not want to give them up. Their thoughts turned to, “How can we make them available to families who may not otherwise have an opportunity to revel in the joy and memories of resort vacations?”
By 2010, Bud and Jo, with the blessing of their children, began making reservations on the East, Gulf and West coasts for Wounded Warriors. Though not restricted to Marines, they have primarily worked through U. S. Marine Corps bases at Camp LeJeune, NC and Camp Pendleton, CA (which is located near Welk Resorts San Diego). The number of donated vacations for Wounded Warriors has varied, from five to 15 per year.
In the fall of 2015, Bud contacted the Gold Star Wives organization, headquartered in Birmingham, AL. With their help, he developed what is known as the “Jo’s Heroes” program. So far, eight widows of military men who have been killed or died of wounds from enemy action have enjoyed a “Jo’s Heroes” vacation in 2016. There is a waiting list of another 29 Gold Star Wives.
Through the generosity of the Lewis family, Wounded Warriors and Gold Star Wives have enjoyed resort vacations at numerous locations, including the Caribbean. The top choices have been Lake Tahoe, Hawaii, Myrtle Beach, SC, and of course, the favorite Welk Resorts San Diego in Escondido.
Although the family has never met any recipients of these vacations over the seven years of its existence, they do receive occasional telephone calls or notes expressing gratitude, and even vacation photos from some of them. Bud and Jo’s family get tremendous satisfaction out of realizing the joy of providing other military families with a real adventure instead of dreams. If Jo were alive, she would love it.
Bud says being a vacation Owner at Welk Resorts has been a wonderful experience.