By Jon Arnold, P
urple Heart Recipient and Director of Constituent Services
As we approach another Veteran’s Day it is time for me once again to take over the Hurd on the Hill column. As a reintroduction, I am a ten-year army veteran, Purple Heart Recipient, the Director of Constituent Services for Congressman Hurd, and I manage all military and VA issues, as well as jokingly serve as Will’s “stuntman”. In my first Hurd on the Hill column back in 2015, I thanked my fellow veterans and their families across the 23rd District of Texas for their willingness to answer our country’s call. Last year, I told my personal story about my passion in serving veterans and highlighted some of our amazing veteran residents continuing to serve our community in various ways. This year, I want to highlight some of our great veterans organizations and the services they provide to veterans and their families every day.
I have spent each day with veterans in every town from San Antonio to El Paso, and what stands out to me the most is the number of veterans I meet who still have a deep passion to serve – within local non-profits, their churches and as volunteers in their communities.
As many of you know, the 23rd District spans 29 counties, two time zones and takes eight and a half hours to drive across at 80 mph (the speed limit in most areas). Covering a territory that vast is a challenge, and there is no way our office could assist our veterans without the assistance of Veteran Service Organizations and various non-profits. If you are unaware, the Texas Veterans Commission is the state agency tasked with assisting veterans, and each county is served by a County Service Officer. Your County Service Officer can help with filing claims, explaining VA benefits, and assisting surviving family members after a veteran is put to rest. They also keep our office informed of trends and concerns that they are seeing across their counties. The County Service Officers in TX-23 do a great job of voicing their concerns and regularly communicating with our office to advocate for veterans issues.
Next, there are our Veteran Service Organizations like the VFWs, American Legions, Military Order of the Purple Heart, American GI Forum, the USO, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed American Veterans, Military Peer Network and Vietnam Veterans of America. They have been instrumental in bringing projects to our office and raising our awareness to special individuals and veteran happenings in their areas. For example, our VSOs made our office aware of WWI Veteran Marcelino Serna who we had the pleasure of memorializing by renaming the Tornillo Port of Entry in his honor. VSOs have also coordinated memorial services for Vietnam Veterans whose remains were recently returned and awarding the Bronze Star with Valor devices to the family of a Uvalde veteran.
Lastly, there are veteran non-profits that operate throughout our district, each with their own mission and niche. Organizations such as The Mission Continues and Team Red White and Blue help veterans from our most recent wars get involved in community service and share their stories with the civilian populations in their communities. Women’s veteran groups such as Grace After Fire and Women’s Veterans of San Antonio provide a platform for our growing number of women’s veterans to address their unique experiences. Equally important are local veterans who meet weekly or monthly to share a meal, coffee and fellowship, and keep each other informed.
If you or someone you know is a veteran in TX-23, know that you are not alone. There are formal and informal groups that you can reach out to for assistance, information, service opportunities or just a pleasant conversation. Our office is happy to share resources and put you in contact with an organization near you. To all the County Service Officers, VSOs and veteran non-profits, thank you for your service and more importantly, thank you for your continued, long, proud tradition of service.