J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant
America’s 242-year-old story
Every summer at this time, I pause and reflect on Independence Day and what it means for our country.
In 1776 in Philadelphia, after much debate, heated rhetoric and more than a few cases of begrudging compromise, a group of people representing 13 distinguished and separate colonies banded together and declared they would take on the strongest empire in the world. They were determined to carve out a new nation based on a seemingly anachronistic idea of self-government answerable to its citizens.
And 242 years later, the great experiment called the United States of America is still going strong.
The colonists knew then what the veteran community still knows today. It’s not enough to merely declare a nation free and independent. It takes a special kind of courage to secure and defend that freedom.
No one understands this more than our country’s disabled veterans. Men and women like us have left pieces of our physical well-being in faraway places as we went forth to conduct America’s business. No one knows more than us about the cost associated with the freedoms that are sacred to our way of life.
I also can’t help but think of another special group of people who are also heroes.
When a military member is changed by his or her service, a caregiver’s life is inevitably and instantly altered as well. These men and women play a pivotal role in an ill, injured or wounded veteran’s daily life. The caregivers’ story goes hand in hand with the story of the American veteran, and both are weaved together in the fabric of our nation’s history.
That’s why I could not be prouder of all the hard work this past year that culminated in DAV’s invitation to the White House, where President Trump signed the VA MISSION Act into law in June. This new law will extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers on whom injured veterans rely, and it couldn’t have happened without your advocacy efforts.
DAV celebrates this historic law, but there is still work to be done. While the law provides comprehensive VA caregiver benefits to injured veterans of all eras, it does not include veterans who were not hurt in combat, like Past National Commander Dave Riley.
While on active duty as a U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Dave contracted a bacterial infection that resulted in all four of his limbs being amputated. His wife, Yvonne, has since been his primary caregiver for more than 30 years. Veterans like Dave—made seriously ill from their service—deserve this much-needed benefit as well, and DAV will continue to fight on their behalf.
This Independence Day, I ask you to join me in saluting caregivers—our nation’s true unsung heroes. Visit unsungheroesinitiative.org to learn how you can honor them through action.
If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.