Texas State Guard Sergeant Shares Love of Outdoors with Veterans as Therapy for Life’s Stresses

National Volunteer Month

By Gregory Illich, Warrant Officer 1, Texas State Guard 

CENTERVILLE, Texas - Many of us only wish that our day-to-day work and service would be more than a job or task and so we look forward to our days off and busy our weekends with our hobbies. For Sgt. Eric Munoz of the 2nd Brigade, Texas State Guard, his work is not laborious or burdensome: it is the sharing of his love of the outdoors with his fellow veterans, in true camaraderie.  

Munoz is the Founder and President of Texas Outdoor Heroes, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which helps veterans in need to experience the outdoors, fishing, camping, cookouts, hunting, and hiking at no cost, to enrich their lives as they deal with stress and various challenges. Through his organization’s network of contacts, Munoz also helps veterans connect with counseling services and other resources they may need. Each year he hosts “A Salute to Veterans” event with barbecue and entertainment to show those that have served that they are appreciated. Also, he reaches out to the veterans in his local community each month to foster a strong community and friendships.   

Munoz lives in the rural town of Centerville, Texas, and enjoys working on his cousin’s ranch. A self-taught welder by trade, he owns and manages a small business that manufactures farm and commercial metal buildings. An outdoorsman, he enjoys camping, hunting, and fishing.  

A veteran with the U.S. Army and the Texas Army National Guard in the 141st Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), Munoz served as an infantry soldier trained especially on crew-served heavy anti-armor weapons such as the TOW anti-tank missile and was the designated tank driver for his squad.  

After leaving federal service, Munoz says he looked back fondly on his time in uniform. He missed the camaraderie, but also realized there were many fellow veterans who needed help, the assistance of various kinds, but most importantly, someone to talk to who had a shared experience. Having looked up other veteran’s groups and associations, he discovered there was a need that fits well with his passion: the outdoors. He wanted to share his love of outdoor experiences with his brother and sister veterans, especially those who felt isolated, misunderstood, or suffered from PTSD. He believes that facilitating these activities with groups of veterans who have shared experiences is an excellent form of therapy. 

“I started the veteran’s support non-profit in honor of my son's best friend, Sgt. Wade Wilson, a U.S. Marine who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2011,” Munoz explains. “He was a remarkable young man who loved hanging out with his friends. Always had a trick or two up his sleeve. The hardest thing for me was getting the news and having to tell my son about his friend. We live in a small town where everyone knows everyone. The war that was going on in Iraq & Afghanistan became very real.” 
After mustering the entire community to turn out in Wilson’s honor when he was laid to rest, Munoz knew he wanted to do more - make a more lasting tribute. Munoz was the driving force in renaming a portion of I-45 in the Centerville area for Wilson.  

Munoz said, “I told the local and state representatives, ‘I will do everything I can to make this happen, but I will let you handle the political side of things while I get the community support and funding.’” Persevering through a lengthy process, Munoz achieved his goal on May 26, 2017, when legislation was added to the Texas Transportation Code renaming a 17-mile stretch of I-45 the ‘Sergeant Wade Daniel Wilson Memorial Highway’.  

“The highway not only honors Wade’s sacrifice but expresses our support for all those who have served and all families that have lost loved ones in the military,” Munoz says. “After renaming the highway, I still wanted to do more, so I joined the Texas State Guard, to serve again with my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform, helping Texans in time of need.” 

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, which also includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. For more than 80 years, thousands of men and women, including many veterans of federal service, have volunteered to serve their state in the Guard, answering the call of civilian authorities during countless disasters and emergencies statewide.  

Since 2011, Munoz’s organization has hosted an annual cookout event honoring veterans, providing food and entertainment at no cost to all veterans who attend. Also, Munoz continues to host camping, hunting, and fishing trips each year, benefiting hundreds of veterans over the years.  

Munoz’s passion is shared by his family. His three sisters, Lupita De La Rosa, Cecilia Morales, and Lorena Garcia all help with the non-profit's mission by preparing meals for the veterans as needed, on occasion serving as many as 450 at a time. His wife, Gloria, assists in the bookkeeping and day-to-day operation of the non-profit.  

“This year is my 12th year helping veterans,” Munoz explains. “It is my way to give back and show appreciation for my fellow veterans and let them know they are not forgotten, and they are not alone. I am there for them.” 

During April, National Volunteer Month, the Texas State Guard is turning a spotlight on Texans who give of their time and efforts to make their communities a better place. In the Texas State Guard, there are many, like Munoz, who go above-and-beyond the call of duty to serve their fellow Texans. More information on opportunities to serve in the Texas State Guard can be found online at tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.