Fort Bragg leaders honored two members of the greater Fayetteville community during an induction dinner, Friday. The Fort Bragg Good Neighbor Program began in 2013 and aims to honor individuals who go above and beyond in their work with the installation.
“The Good Neighbor initiative enables us to extend our appreciation to recognize those local citizens who have afforded exceptional support to the Soldiers and Families of Fort Bragg,” said Maj. Gen. Paul LaCamera, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg deputy commander.
During the dinner, members of the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville communities learned more about what makes Ken Barnard and John Meroski such exceptional neighbors to the nation’s largest military installation.
Barnard is the CEO and founder of Patriot Hunts, which provides outdoor experiences for Wounded Warriors, Gold Star Families, active-duty service members and retirees.
Col. Brett Funck, Fort Bragg Garrison commander, introduced Barnard and emphasized the healing effects of the outdoors.
“It’s refreshing, it’s relaxing, it’s recharging,” he said. “We all have a connection with getting back in the woods.”
Funck also spoke about the importance of Barnard’s work for military Families in providing a location for them to get outdoors when it is really needed.
“He’s turned his own passion as an avid outdoorsman … and really what he’s done is turned it into a fun and healing event for so many of our Families,” Funck said.
This passion is what drove Barnard to start Patriot Hunts. He said he started the organization with funds out of his own pocket after he attempted to enlist in the Army Reserves post-9/11. He was denied, but came up with the idea of Patriot Hunts as another outlet to serve the military.
“I think it’s a debt of honor that I owe to each and every one of you veterans, whether it’s active-duty or retired, your spouse, you’re the ones who have paid the price on behalf of this nation … it can never be repaid,” Barnard said. “I’ve got the measuring stick. I know when I get to the point that I’ve paid my debt and I’m not there yet. I’m far from there yet.”
Moreski said supporting the military comes naturally to him as well.
As the CEO of the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for the past 16 years, Moreski has supported the Fort Bragg Special Activities Committee and Military Affairs Council, helped produce the All-American Marathon, coordinate Fourth of July events at Fort Bragg, and more, said Col. Paula Lodi, commander of the 44th Medical Brigade.
“John invests himself in efforts that matter and make a difference,” she said. “He is a man with a vision who loves a challenge and (says) ‘my work is not done here.’”
Moreski said he is proud to represent the community where North Carolina ratified the Constitution of the United States and from where service members defend that important document.
“The best memories that I have (here) have all been related to working with military and in support of the military,” he said.
During his time in Fayetteville, Moreski said he has had numerous meaningful experiences with Soldiers and their Families, including finding a temporary home for a service member’s dog while she was deployed.
One of Moreski’s favorite aspects of living in the community is being able to say thank you to members of the military community on a daily basis.
“Thank you Fort Bragg for defending the freedoms that we all get to enjoy,” Moreski said. “We will continue to watch over those who watch over us.”