To celebrate Veterans Day, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) hosted a special appreciation event for local veterans and their families on Friday at Acadiana Café, which was meant to honor their service and sacrifice for the country.
Attendees enjoyed a buffet meal, listened to flute player Rommeo Johnson play patriotic songs, and had the opportunity to listen to three veterans share their thoughts, struggles, and reflections regarding a life of military service.
With the results of the Presidential election on everyone’s minds, Hurd urged the audience to not dwell on divisiveness, and instead focus on things that bring everyone together.
The Rivard Report asked Hurd about his Nov. 8 congressional victory over Pete Gallego for the 23rd Congressional District. Hurd admitted that his competitive edge was remaining a constant presence at City, cybersecurity, and other relevant events.
“We were outspent by almost $1.3 million,” Hurd said. “But our secret was being there and I did that for the entire 22 months … I take the title of representative seriously. I don’t represent just San Antonio, I represent all 29 counties and I think people saw that and recognized that.”
Hurd told the audience that one of the things that makes him feel good about the future, regardless of where the U.S. is heading politically, is the strong and unwavering pride the country holds for men and women who have served in the armed forces.
“It’s because of our veterans that are giving back to their communities, that are (telling) their stories, that put themselves in harm’s way – that’s what makes me feel good about our future, makes me proud to be American, and proud to be representing you in Washington,” he said.
Before inviting three veterans to share their thoughts and experiences at the front of the restaurant, Hurd opened the event with his own reflection.
The congressman recalled the time when he served in Pakistan as an undercover CIA officer and saw military personnel help local citizens after the country suffered a violent earthquake. He told the audience how he helped a young nine-year-old girl who had just lost her parents in the quake into a U.S. helicopter. After landing safely in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad, the girl hugged Hurd, smiled at one helicopter crewmen, and kissed his hand.
“That little girl’s face is seared into my brain, because it’s an example of how we are the only country on this planet that has the resources and the willingness to help people even if they are 7,000 miles away,” he said. “We’re able to do that because of the men and women of character that make our armed services.”
Retired U.S. Army veteran Jon Arnold, 38, who served the force for nine years and now works as Hurd’s military and veteran affairs liaison, recounted the harrowing day back in April 2006 when he was in Iraq and an IED and nearby grenade hit his Humvee, causing pieces of shrapnel to perforate his leg. With bullets still bouncing everywhere at the scene, Arnold recalled, his roommate got inside the vehicle, gave him morphine, and put a tourniquet on his leg, saving his life.
“He has me laughing by the time he’s done – as a good medic should – keeping me engaged, keeping me conscious,” Arnold said.
He later ran into his old roommate right before he married his wife, and thanked him for his actions that day back in Iraq.
“He told me ‘All I did was what I was trained to do and I didn’t do anything that one of you guys wouldn’t have done to me,’ and that always stuck with me,” Arnold said, adding that there are countless others “just doing their job” every day.
“That’s the caliber of people we have in the military,” he said.
U.S. Marine veteran Richard Delgado Jr., 34, is director of Military Affairs & Army ROTC at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and served his country for 10 years. Delgado highlighted the reality of all those veterans who have committed suicide or have thought of doing so, and urged veterans to ask for help if they are suffering.
“We have to take it upon ourselves to ask for help,” he said. “When we take off the uniform, we also take off that need to ask for help because we go back to our training, we go back to ‘whatever happens it’s mission first … keep moving forward,’” said Delgado, adding that there are many support networks out there to help those in need.
“What I challenge you to do today is to call somebody who served,” Davila added, “someone you haven’t talked to in a while and ask them how they’re doing and leave it open ended because you’ll never know what they’re going through or what you’ll hear.”
U.S. Army veteran George G. Davila, 36, is the leader of Platoon Mission Continues – San Antonio and served in the military from 1987 to 2006. He reminded attendees to think of all those who didn’t come home and would be considered veterans today.
“We are the living testament to our forgotten, fallen brothers,” he said. “For us veterans there’s still a component missing – many of us have friends that could not come back home with us and for that reason a lot of veterans feel like a part of their family is missing … they’re not at the table with us.”
In addition, Davila highlighted the important role that military spouses and family members play in the lives of veterans and asked military family members to stand up, a gesture that received a loud round of applause.
“We aren’t just fighting for America, we are also fighting for the ones we love,” he said.