As a teacher, Burnet High School culinary arts instructor Mike Erickson is always looking for ways to enhance his students’ learning, but not just on the classroom topic.
“We try to find places, when it works, to give back to local charities and the community,” he said. “I completely believe it’s important for kids to do patriotic events.”
On Oct. 24, Erickson and six of his culinary arts students joined JoAnne and Bobby Mims, owners of J Diamond B Chuckwagon of Llano, in preparing a meal for 15,000 Fort Hood soldiers returning home from recent overseas deployments as well as their families. It was part of Operation Standing Strong, organized by Cowboys 4 Heroes, an organization that donates time and resources to assist combat veterans’ transition to civilian life.
“I think it’s so important for the (students) to see these families who haven’t seen a family member for months, maybe longer, and realize the sacrifices both the soldiers and their families make for us,” Erickson said.
About 20 other cooking teams participated in serving about 5,000 hamburgers, 10,000 sausages on a stick, and 5,000 hot dogs. While his kids cooked alongside J Diamond B, other groups helped package food and hand it out.
Fort Hood and Cowboys 4 Heroes implemented and followed COVID-19 protocols during the event.
Along with cooking and giving military families a break by providing a meal, the Burnet High School culinary arts students were able to meet other cooks and people from across the state. The six students are members of Erickson’s class, but their participation was 100 percent voluntary. The students gave up a Saturday to serve others, Erickson noted.