Every day we pass by people in Sumner County who are doing remarkable things but most of the time we never know it. It’s not socially acceptable to run up to a stranger and ask them to tell you their story. You do that too many times and you might find yourself locked away somewhere.
On the other hand, I get paid to be nosey. It’s a great perk of the job. On a regular basis I call up someone I’ve never met and ask them to tell me their story so I can tell everyone else. On occasion I get turned down and sometimes I have to do a little convincing to assure them that other people will be interested in what they have to say. Most of the time it works out well.
I heard of one of those folks who are doing remarkable things this week. Gallatin resident Donald L. Samuels will be in Las Vegas on Saturday to deliver his farewell address at Disabled American Veterans 91st National Convention. For the past year he has served as the organization’s National Commander.
A Sumner County man who represented 1.2 million DAV members at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees during the organization’s Mid-Winter Conference.
A Sumner County man who visited the White House to discuss veterans issues with President Obama and the First Lady. He also represented DAV at a special White House dinner for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, one which he called an inspiring event.
A Sumner County man who met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, as well as Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairs Patty Murray and Jeff Miller, to discuss many DAV issues, including the needs of injured and ill veterans and ways to better serve them.
A Sumner County man who has been working this year on the creation of a DAV Memorial in Washington, D.C. so the legislators will have to pass by and think of disabled American veterans each day.
Samuels earned his DAV membership like all 1.2 million members; the hard way. Serving in the Marine Corps from 1960 to 1969, he was discharged due to injuries sustained in the Battle for Hill 881N near Khe Sanh in Vietnam. While leading his infantry platoon in a ground assault against North Vietnamese Regulars as the Platoon Sergeant, he sustained multiple gunshot wounds, resulting in the partial loss of use of his right hand.
Beginning in 1989, Samuels served as the Assistant Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs until he retired in April 2011.
Among the most rewarding opportunities for Samuels this past year was meeting with DAV members at Department conventions across the nation. He called it heartwarming to greet so many who are the heart and soul of their organization. He also cherished the opportunity to meet with volunteers who donate their time as Transportation Network drivers, service officers, DAVS volunteers and our Local Veterans Assistance Program volunteers who work on behalf of veterans in communities around the nation.
A personal highlight was attending DAV Airshow Outreach Program events at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and Oshkosh, Wis., including an opportunity to speak before a class of first graders whose parents was on active duty. He recalled how difficult it was to hear that some of their folks had been injured.
He said it was a reminder that the impact of war takes many forms. “Flying through the sky during the shows, I thought of our brave World War II veterans and how they experienced combat. On the ground in Vietnam, I saw how military service and sacrifice are a shared experience. The horror of war impacts those who’ve served, their caregivers and the generations who follow. I was also reminded of how important it is to educate our fellow citizens about military service and our mission.”
Samuels said that he was deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve as DAV National Commander. As we mark our freedom again this week with an election, I think it is all of us, citizens of the United States, who should be grateful to Samuels and all of our veterans for their sacrifices and service to us.
See you next week.