Military Families Urged to Share Their Stories

Saturday was Military Appreciation Day in Loudoun County and for the fourth consecutive year representatives of veterans’ support organizations gathered at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn to ensure service members and their families were well informed about resources that are available to them.

Organized by the Leonard W. Kidd Memorial American Legion Post 2001 in Ashburn, the event featured representatives from the Veterans Administration who were on hand to provide assistance on specific cases and a host of volunteer groups that provide a wide range of support to vets.

The formal program in the school’s auditorium featured remarks by County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Lester L. Lyles, a retired U.S. Air Force four-star general, as well as performances by the John Champe High School String Band and the Hillside Elementary Choir.

Lyles, who has served several corporate boards since his retirement in 2003, encouraged companies to make efforts to help veterans. Today, he is chairman of USAA.

“Look for ways that you can do things together to support the needs of the military families,” Lyles said. “It could be any number of things that you can do, but look for ways and seek ways that you can support them.”

Gen. Lester Lyles, USAF ret., deleivers the keynote remarks during the Oct. 28, 2017, Salute to Military, Veterans & Families.

He highlighted the insurance company’s efforts to aid homeless veterans in San Antonio, TX, where it is headquartered.

“Anyone who wanted to be helped, we helped them. We got them off the streets. We got them homes. We got them jobs, many with USAA,” Lyles said.

The general also said it was important for veterans and military families to talk with their friends and neighbors who may not understand military life.

“Tell your story,” he said. “It is important for people to really understand what it is like to serve in the military, to be a military family member or to be a military vet. One of the ways to have that happen is for you, vets and the military members, to tell your story. Don’t be shy about explaining all the challenges but also the opportunities as a result of you having served.”

In her remarks, Randall did that, sharing stories of growing up as the daughter of a master sergeant who served three combat tours. Those included having to meet the daily test of making a quarter bounce off the freshly made bed before school, not being “authorized” to have a second dessert at the dinner table, and having to stop a sprint across the post to get care for her sister’s appendicitis until the daily flag retirement ceremony ended.

Eagle, a service dog trained by Loudoun-based Veterans Moving Forward, gets some special attention during the Salute to Military, Veterans & Families on Oct. 28 in Ashburn.

She said military families rely heavily on resilience and a good sense of humor. That was true in her family as they dealt with her father’s alcoholism and PTSD.

“There were times when the house was very turbulent,” she said. “At the time, nobody believed in the word trauma.” Instead families tried to “push through” without the services that are available now, she said.

Those experiences led to her career in mental health therapy.

“I watched so many men and women come back from combat and not have the support or the understanding they needed,” Randall said. “I would say that we are so much farther along today than we used to be.”

Before reading the Board of Supervisors’ formal resolution proclaiming Oct. 28 as Military Appreciation Day, Buona also emphasized the need to support military families.

“It is the families that sacrifice. It is the families that endure absences. It is the families that endure moving and moving and moving,” Buona said.

Saturday’s program also was attended by U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10th), Del. Tag Greason (R-34), county supervisors Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), Susanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), Koran Saines (D-Sterling) and Leesburg Town Coucilman Ron Campbell, along with two World War II veterans.

The Hillside Hawks chorus performs during the 2017 Salute to Military, Veterans & Families program.

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    He enlisted in the Marines in 1963. By age 21, Black became a second lieutenant and was among the Marines’ youngest aircraft carrier-qualified pilots. He flew 269 combat helicopter missions in Vietnam. Ground fire struck his aircraft on four different occasions.
    Black also engaged in bitter ground combat with the 1st Marine Regiment. His radiomen were killed and he was wounded during an attack against enemy positions across the Hoi An River. Black served in small-unit actions where two fellow Marines–PFC Gary Martini and SSgt. Jimmie Howard–won the Medal of Honor. While in office, he was the only member of the Virginia General Assembly who held the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in battle.

    After the war, he served as a flight instructor and later attended engineer school. Black graduated second from engineer officers’ class and was made a Company Commander. He deployed his 240-man unit to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. There, Captain Black’s Marines rebuilt the island runway. They operated a large rock quarry–drilling, blasting, crushing and trucking aggregate used to pave the airstrip. By then, Captain Black was 25 years old.
    Dick left the Marines to attend the University of Florida. There, he was twice elected to the Student Senate. He graduated with honors from the School of Business in 1973 and earned a law degree in 1976. He practiced law in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, before accepting a commission as a Major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG).
    The Judge Advocate General of the Army appointed Dick to head the legal office at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. While there, he lobbied the Missouri legislature for legislation that curbed drunk driving. As an ex-officio member of the City Council for St. Robert, Missouri, Black led a major crackdown on vice that shut down eight houses of prostitution.
    He supervised 40 attorneys at Ft. Lewis, Washington. There, he executed one of the most complex federal land transactions in recent years. He negotiated and developed legislation protecting competing interests of state and federal agencies, environmental groups, ranchers, and the Yakima Indian Nation. His efforts preserved the hunting and fishing rights of the Indian people, and provided for the eventual return of the vast, 63,000-acre tract to them.
    Black headed the Army’s Criminal Law Division at the Pentagon. He developed Executive Orders for the President’s signature, and laws that were enacted by Congress. He advised senior government officials on issues of national significance. He testified before the U.S. Congress, representing the U.S. Army, on four occasions.
    In 1994, Colonel Dick Black retired from military service to become a partner in the law firm of Taylor, Horbaly, and Black. In addition to operating a successful law practice, Dick Black was a frequent media guest who appeared over 30 times on CNN and other national networks discussing foreign and military affairs.
    Black has been a member of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, Virginia Society for Human Life, National Federation of Independent Business, Knights of Columbus, Izaak Walton League, NRA, VFW, American Legion, Military Officers Association, and Virginia Right to Life.
    He is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Virginia. He has held a Top Secret security clearance.

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