Troop Rewards' Founder, Tom Burkett, sits down with the Higson family before the Le Meridien's "Welcome Home Our Heroes" reception, as local media channels WTSP 10 News and Fox 13 Tampa Bay captured their first ever meeting.
Ret. Army Sgt Joe Higson was the soldier that called Burkett in March 2009 from a satellite phone while serving a deployment in Iraq. As a Pvc. 1st Class Infantry soldier in 2009, he was calling to inquire about booking Burkett's suite at the Sandpearl Resort & Spa in Clearwater Beach for a belated honeymoon with his wife, Brittany.
When Higson was given a price that was outside of his budget, Burkett slashed the price to $0, stating "How can I charge you anything, when you've risked your life defending my freedoms." After the Higson's trip in 2009, they went their separate ways until this week. This Pay-It-Forward moment inspired Burkett to start Troop Rewards in 2013 and now provides almost 100 families per year with RnR Recovery Vacations at resorts in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
In late June of 2016, a volunteer for Troop Rewards, Tamara Abney, found the Higsons and they had no idea their call and thank you letter to Burkett inspired him to start the charity. They met for the 1st time at Le Meridien's reception on July 14, 2016.