A Monongalia County organization known for helping local veterans welcomed in the community on Tuesday night for its holiday open house.
Operation Welcome Home set out to thank both veterans and community members by hosting the event.
One of those veterans in attendance was Sergeant Chris Brooks, who served in the United States Army from 2001 to 2006. Brooks, who volunteers at Operation Welcome Home, said he knows firsthand how important it is to help out and bond with other veterans.
"I remember when I was over there, it's hard. But it means something to know that everybody back here is thinking about you," said Brooks. "When I first got out, there wasn't whole lot [of resources] there. I used what was available at WVU, there was a veterans group. But I did, recently, start to be able to have some time to volunteer because that's something that's kind of always been missing from me is just the ability to interact with my fellow veterans and give something back to them."
That's what Tuesday night's open house was all about: coming together this holiday season.
"We've had a lot of very generous support from the community, and this is a chance for our veterans to come in, have a nice meal, have some of our financial supporters to come in and spend a little time with us, and enjoy the fellowship," said Bob Pirner of Operation Welcome Home.
"One that welcomes people in to a warm environment...we wanted to make sure we had a place where veterans, when they walk through the door, they felt like they were at home," said Jamie Summerlin of Operation Welcome Home.
For Summerlin, the idea of giving back has sure been a "journey." He ran across the country last year to raise awareness for veterans and said he's glad to see others paying it forward.
"Not only our young veterans, but we have our older veterans that are starting to come around as well because they find it as a mentorship opportunity to be able to support these young vets and a way for them to be able to give back," said Summerlin.
The open house wasn't the only project Summerlin had in the works. At the end of the month, he'll be taking on the Military Bowl Freedom Run, a 101 mile 24-hour run to Annapolis.