J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant
Honoring veterans throughout their lives
Joseph Walker, a DAV member, was an Air Force veteran who served during Vietnam. He joined the military at 18,
signing a blank check for our nation at a time of war. He died in late January in Texas.
Don Benson, a Navy veteran, struggled with homelessness in the final years of his life, bouncing from shelter to shelter. In the bitter cold of a Massachusetts February, he passed away at age 74.
James McCue, also a DAV life member, was a highly decorated World War II Army veteran. He was just 21 when he volunteered to fight for his country, taking part in the D-Day invasion and major battles in northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe. He was laid to rest in Massachusetts in mid-February.
Despite serving at different times and coming from different backgrounds, these veterans have two things in common: They all gave years of selfless service to our country and they all died with no known friends or family to mourn them.
But while these veterans may have left this world alone, their memories were honored by hundreds of individuals who wanted to pay respect on behalf of a grateful nation.
Stories just like these pop up in the media from time to time, tugging at our collective heartstrings. After all, we don’t know their circumstances or the hands life has dealt them, but we know they are our fellow veterans. They could easily be the person we bunked with in basic training, the one who shared our fighting hole, or a brother or sister who risked their own life to pull us off the battlefield and dress our wounds, ensuring we would live another day.
In the case of McCue, nearly 500 strangers—including DAV members from the Department of Massachusetts—answered the call to give a proper, final salute to this hero of the Greatest Generation who otherwise may have had no one present at his graveside ceremony.
I think this underscores the importance of our membership and the need to not only honor those who have passed but also wrap our arms around those in our community who are still with us and need our help and friendship.
Please keep in mind those veterans who are living in nursing facilities and hospice care or who may feel alone and isolated. It often does these individuals a great deal of good to have a companion nearby, and the simple gift of your time is truly invaluable.
This is, after all, what we stand for—veterans serving veterans, at each and every stage of our lives.
If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.