Armistice Day 2022 and The Unbreakable Bonds of 41 Million Americans

Armistice Day is a very special day of honor for our nation’s military veterans and their families.  Armistice Day was created to celebrate the end of the “War to End All Wars” – World War I.   The end of hostilities between the Allies and Germany would be formally signed in 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to permanently lock down the significance of the global peace the end of World War I promised.  November 11th became Armistice Day.

Sadly, twenty-two years later, the promise of Armistice Day’s global peace ended when Nazi Adolf Hitler invaded Poland.  For six years, our world endured the unimaginable horrors of the Second World War.  The deaths of 20 MILLION service members, 100 MILLION CIVILIANS, the Holocaust, ballistic missiles and atomic bombs shattered the hope of Armistice Day.  Congress acted in 1954; Armistice Day became Veterans Day.  November 11th of every year is now a day we honor the service and sacrifice of every man or woman who has worn our country’s uniform.

Our military does not discriminate. It does not matter what your skin color is, how much money is in your wallet or purse, where you chose to worship or what school awarded you a diploma.  You cannot be drafted to serve. Since 1973, our service members have been 100% volunteer. Our military is the most diverse, caring and lethal the world has ever known.

Fort Bend Heroes

Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez

Since Fort Bend is the most diverse and patriotic county in the United States, we see the service and sacrifice of neighbors who are veterans every single day.  Most of these veterans have one timeless, American trait: they use their military service to empower themselves to make society better after they leave the military. Richmond City Commissioner Barry Beard is one of our heroic neighbors. Beard was an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He flew combat missions, classified missions with the Green Berets, rescue missions and medical evacuations, routinely returning from these missions with more than 100 bullet holes in his aircraft.

Beard never flew with Army Medal of Honor awardee Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, but I’m sure they would have made an amazing team. On May 2nd, 1968, Benavidez jumped on a helicopter to rescue a 12-man Special Forces team that was getting mowed down. His body was ripped apart by small arms fire and hand grenades.  His head was smashed by the enemy with a club.  Despite these life-threatening injuries, Benavidez was able to get all the wounded and dead on the last helicopter.  He collapsed on the flight home.  His fellow soldiers thought he was dead and tried to put him in a body bag.  Benavidez could not speak, but he could spit.  He spit on the soldier zipping him up in the body bag.  Benavidez has ties to Fort Bend – he was a regular at Bob’s Taco Station.  His Medal of Honor license plate is on the wall, along with the Medal of Honor citation.

Celso “C.J.” Pacheco, Jr. is another Fort Bend friend deserving recognition.  Pacheco deployed multiple times in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and now uses the skills he learned in the Army to prevent a 9/11 from happening in Fort Bend.  He has won awards working for us in the Houston Office of Emergency Management.  If we are hit by another hurricane, or there’s an accident at a chemical plant, or God-forbid, we experience an act of terror, Pacheco has already made plans to minimize injury and loss of life.  Barry Beard, Roy Benavidez and C.J. Pacheco, Jr. make us Fort Bend Strong!

On Veterans Day, we also remember and honor Fort Bend neighbors who have come home from service in a flag-draped coffin or with severe physical wounds or mental wounds from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My friend, Curtis Brown, was severely injured in training accident in California when a large mobile artillery vehicle broke away and ran over his small vehicle.  He saved other soldiers’ lives, but his spine was severely broken.  The severe pain caused him to become addicted to powerful painkillers. His faith allowed him to break his addiction.  Brown created a charity, Front Line Forces, to help fellow service members avoid addiction and PTSD.

Marine Casey Owens

PTSD took the life of a friend, Marine Casey Owens.  Owens grew up and attended school in Katy.  After we were attacked on 9/11, Owens joined the Marine Corps. On patrol in Iraq, Owens’ vehicle hit a double stacked bomb. He was thrown from his vehicle and severely wounded.  He lost both legs, his left hand was disabled and he developed traumatic brain injury and severe PTSD.  He seemed to be doing well.  He had moved to Colorado to train as a snow skier to represent the United States in the Paralympics.  He was still struggling with PTSD.  In 2012, Owens told a national television audience on CBS News, “I really don’t think I’ll ever be free.  I don’t think the burden of war is ever gone.” Ten years of the burden of war was too much for my friend.   On October 16, 2014, Owens took his own life.

While I never met him, Marine Lance Corporeal Garrett Gamble is a hero of mine.  Gamble’s mother, Michelle, told me her little 11-year-old boy stared at the television in anger on September 11th, 2001. Gamble was going to join the Marine Corps to make sure no religious zealots were going to kill innocent Americans ever again. His family and friends thought his comments were teenage bravado, until Gamble came back from lunch at Austin High School and told his best friend that he had joined the Marines.  His best friend could not believe that Gamble actually became a Marine. He chastised Gamble for such an impetuous, irrational decision. He told Gamble, “You may get killed.  I would NEVER join the Marines.”  In act of pure love, Gamble put his arms on his friend’s shoulder and calmly said, “That’s why I did it.” He died in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province on March 11th, 2010 after stepping on a land mine.  My hero was only 20-years-old.   I was able to get Congress to name the U.S. Post Office on Grants Lake in Sugar Land after Gamble.  I visit him every year at the Houston National Cemetery, Section R1, Site 761.

We will never forget the courage and sacrifice of Casey, Garrett and the nearly 1.5 MILLION other Americans who have died for our freedom.  They make us Fort Bend Stronger!

Finally, there is group of largely forgotten Americans who ensure our men and women in uniform have the support they need to defeat our enemies.  They are our business leaders and the families of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.  No civilian business owner in Fort Bend County and Greater Houston has done more to support our veterans than Jim McIngvale, Mattress Mack of Gallery Furniture. Mack NEVER sings his own praises, because he does not care about good publicity, glowing public accolades or strong profits.  Mack only cares about taking care of our heroes and their families.  That is why he paid for 110 veterans, being treated for PTSD at Camp Hope, to do something I have only dreamed of – watching our Astros play in the World Series!  Mack summed up his patriotism and generosity with these simple words, “I never served, but I’ve seen the trauma that these guys have been through.  It gives all of us at Gallery Furniture great joy to help these veterans who have done so much while I did so little.”

Celebrating Our Veteran Families

All of the family members of our troops should be remembered and celebrated on Veterans Day.  A great example of the importance of the family to American men and women in uniform is Jamay Schadrien. I was fortunate to meet Schadrien when she spoke to the Exchange Club of Sugar Land last year.  She spoke about Career Gear, a non-profit she started in Houston in 2004. Schadrien talks the talk and walks the walk.  She is the child and wife of warfighters. She saw first-hand how unprepared our troops are to find employment after military service.  These troops have never had a resume. They only own civilian leisure clothes – they had uniforms with strict guidelines as to how that uniform is the be worn at work. These troops have no idea how to make their work in military applicable and beneficial to the private sector.  How does the career of a gunner in an M1A2 Abrams main battle tank mean something in the private sector?  (Answer – TEAMWORK!)   Schadrien knows what the veterans need for success. She gives them confidence and makes us better.

I know the importance of a supporting spouse first-hand.   My Nancy is the epitome of a loving, supporting spouse. We were married on September 25th, 1993. She knew that in less than seven months, I was going to leave Hawaii in May 1994 and go to the Persian Gulf for six months.  Minimum.  There was no phone communication – only slow mail sent from Masirah, Oman or Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She knew that she would be alone for our first anniversary. The families of many of my squadron mates left for their parent’s home the day after we left on deployment. They could not bear the loneliness. My Nancy was determined to have our home, so she stayed on Oahu.  She used our separation to get a Master’s Degree in Public Health.

A few months before coming home, my squadron was told that we were a casualty of the end of the Cold War – we were being totally disestablished.  GREAT NEWS – Nancy and I could stay in Oahu for two to three months with no burden of training for the next deployment! We could catch up for lost time and enjoy Hawaii, starting on November 6th, 1994 when I returned home. I remember shutting the engines down and flying into Nancy’s arms. We were together again! I was only home for one week when the Navy ended our relaxation dreams. I received orders to report to the Pentagon by December 10th, 1994, to prepare for an internship for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So, four weeks after coming home, I left Nancy again.  Now she had to sell one of our cars, pack up our furniture, clean up and repair our condominium for the next renters, and start looking for a new place to live that was 8,000 miles and seven time zones away in Northern Virginia.  Two days before Christmas, I picked Nancy up at the airport. Nancy was, is, and always will be the greatest Christmas present EVER. Military families are Fort Bend Strongest!

I’m sure you have stories of veterans, fallen heroes and military families. If you feel comfortable sharing these personal stories with me, please email me at

so I can share them, too. On Veterans Day and every chance you get, please thank a veteran for their service. They will probably respond by saying, “That’s very kind, but unnecessary. America has given me more than I’ll ever be able to give to her.”

That’s Fort Bend and America Strong!