Tribute to Veterans: The Land of the Free Because of the Brave

As our nation takes time to honor our veterans this Veterans Day, I can’t help but think about the expression “all gave some, some gave all.” As Americans, we truly owe an eternal debt of gratitude to the many men and women who answered the call and served our country over the past 240 plus years. From Valley Forge to the mountains of Afghanistan, American patriots have been willing to put everything on the line to make and keep America free.

I think this statement from an unknown author sums things up very well:

A veteran – whether active duty, retired, or national guard or reserve – is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including their life.”

I often think back on my five years on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1975 – 1980. On occasion, I wish I had those five years of my life back but then I realize that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the discipline, perseverance, and personal accountability I learned in the Navy. Lessons I think more of us could benefit from today.

At times it was very hard. One of the ships I was stationed on deployed to the western Pacific for almost 7 months. My daughter was about 6 months old when I left. When I returned, she was afraid of me. To her, Daddy was a picture in a picture frame. My oldest son was born while I was at sea. Yet these personal situations are trivial compared to what many of our veterans endured. I was fortunate because no one ever shot at me. I truly count my blessings as many of our veterans and current service members haven’t been so lucky.

I am proud of my family’s long tradition of military service. I was born in an Army hospital in Utah while my father was serving in the Army during the Korean War. My father’s father enlisted in the Army during World War I and served in France. My mother’s father enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War I. My great uncle Charlie served in the Army during World War I where he was subject to a gas attack that left him with breathing problems the rest of his life. My uncle Don served in the Army during the Korean War and my Uncle Bob served in the Navy and was assigned to a radar picket destroyer that was part of the naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis. My father-in-law enlisted in the Navy in early 1942 and served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam over his thirty year career. Not long after retiring, my father-in-law was diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer. Having served many years in Navy shipyards, he was regularly exposed to asbestos before they knew the link between asbestos exposure and incurable lung cancer. I served twenty-two years in the Navy, five years on active duty and seventeen years in the Navy Reserve, before retiring as a Commander.

My feelings of being a “brother-in-arms” with the men and women who served our great country has left a lasting impression on me and made me want to do what I can to help other veterans who aren’t as fortunate. To that end, I serve as a volunteer attorney at the Veterans’ Legal Clinic held each month at the VA Outpatient Center in Austin. I’m also an Accredited Attorney with the VA which allows me to help veterans and their families receive the benefits they have earned and deserve.

To help recognize some of the veterans in our community, I am sponsoring a Salute to Veterans Event at Ledgestone Independent Living (13152 Four Star Blvd., the multi-story building behind Trudy’s Mexican Restaurant) from Noon – 2:00pm on Veterans’ Day. There are about two dozen veterans who live at Ledgestone, many of whom are veterans of World War II or the Korean War. I hope you can find the time to attend and help me thank the veterans for their service. Spend a few minutes with living history. Neither you nor they will forget it! Food and beverages will be provided. If you can join us, please RSVP to John@JohnBurns4JP.org.

God Bless America and the service men and women who served or are serving in our Armed Forces. Without their many sacrifices, we would not be the great country we are today!