It may look like a mostly empty plot of land, but Rick’s Place is already living up to its mission to unite military Families experiencing the effects of deployment. The 50-acre plot will eventually contain a recreation center with horseback riding, nature trails, a splash pad and more, according to Pam Jacobs, executive director, Rick Herrema Foundation. For now, the land is the site of monthly work days and Family fun days that give Fort Bragg Families a chance to get outdoors together and reconnect.
The Rick Herrema Foundation
RHF and Rick’s Place are named after Sgt. 1st Class Rick Herrema, a Special Forces Soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2006. Throughout his life, Herrema put his Family first, paying for a limo to take his sisters to prom and sending his parents on a trip to Las Vegas. After his death, his best friends started the foundation to honor him and continue his love of Family. The foundation purchased the property that is now the site of Rick’s Place as a concrete way to honor Herrema and everything for which he lived.
“They wanted to find a way to help military Families bond, reconnect and just have fun activities, especially before, after and during deployments,” Jacobs said.
RHF hopes to meet a need that hasn’t really been addressed in the Fort Bragg community, according to Juergens. He pointed out all the options available for those who are experiencing the invisible wounds of war, but said there isn’t really a place for Families to be together and bond during those rough times.
Juergens and Jacobs are both part of military Families and know the importance of a community outlet like Rick’s Place firsthand. Juergens and his wife received orders to Fort Bragg in 2005. At the time, his wife was pregnant with the couple’s eighth child. Two and a half weeks after arriving at his new duty station, Juergens deployed to Afghanistan. He said he wished his Family had a community like Rick’s Place available at that time.
“So what’s Rick’s Place means to me is maybe that young Family coming in here to Fort Bragg won’t have to wander around Fayetteville to get connected with people who are right in the middle of what they’re going through,” he said.
Jacobs concurred and said that in her experience, many military Families can feel isolated. She has always wanted to find a place that helped Families get to know each other again and have the kind of support that leads to a healthy Family life.
One goal of Rick’s Place is to be that source of community and support, said Juergens. “Let’s get out there in front of the challenges Families are having.”
Work began on the property in mid-2015, and the monthly community work days have allowed the foundation to clear the property with help from volunteers.
“We have a good foundation built,” said Juergens. “Now, we are right on the cusp, in fact next week, we have our first real roll up your sleeves meeting with the landscape architects and the civil engineer.”
RHF will build various structures on the property in phases, according to Bethany Peters, executive assistant, RHF. She said construction for the barn, which will be one of the main buildings on the property, begins in June.
Jacobs said her favorite part about Rick’s Place is that it is being built for military Families, by military Families.
At a recent work day, 27 volunteers from the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville communities cleared debris from Hurricane Matthew. Some drove tractors, others set up dinner and children even helped out by building a small bridge over a creek on the property.
Many volunteers heard about Rick’s Place from friends or through their church. All agree that Rick’s Place meets the need for a place that allows Families to enjoy time together with others who have similar experiences.
Amber Benson, family member, said she built lasting friendships while working on the property with her children during her husband’s deployment. Her favorite aspect of Rick’s Place is the unity she feels by being able to get together with others who are in the same boat. Other volunteers agreed.
“To us, I think it’s a place to come together with people who are living the same type of life,” said MaDonna Medley, Family member. “It’s more of a Family atmosphere — it feels like you’re home instead of being in the everyday on-post routine of being a Soldier or a Soldier’s spouse. You can just come out and just be with other people who you know are military but feel more like a Family.”