Something Bigger Than Yourself
My heroes have always been veterans. My great-uncles Ralph and Roger Elfert served
in the Army and Navy during World War II. My great-uncle Dudley Slay flew combat
missions in the Korean War. Uncles Robert and Jimmie Burgess retired from the Navy
as master and senior chief petty officers.
At 21, I enlisted in the Navy and intended to make that my career.
But, like many people reading this, the option to continue my service was taken
away from me as a result of an injury. I went from having a clear path in life to
being forced to reimagine a future that seemed completely displaced from what I
wanted. For a time, I felt rudderless and unfulfilled.
As my time in uniform was coming to an end, I visited a Vet Center in Philadelphia.
A World War II veteran and DAV volunteer named Irv Meadows greeted me and offered
assistance with my claim for benefits. I was grateful when he asked if I wanted
to join DAV, because it gave me the sense that I could maintain that connection
with my fellow veterans. I became a member. I once again belonged to something bigger
than myself. I was on a team.
A couple years passed before I read an article in DAV Magazine encouraging me to
recruit my fellow veterans into the DAV family. At the time, I worked at the VA
as an insurance specialist and was going to school at night. I went to talk to someone
at the DAV regional office to get more information on recruiting. Before I knew
it, I was filling out an employment application.
I never would have imagined at that stage in my life that, someday, I would have
the good fortune of leading the professional side of the organization that gave
me a sense of hope when it was desperately needed. From the start, I felt brought
into the fold. World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans taught me how to serve and
represent veterans and DAV. They introduced me to the culture of DAV— a culture
centered foremost on service.
I am extremely honored by the opportunity Commander Polzin has given me to serve
as your National Adjutant. I am grateful for the mentorship of Art Wilson, whose
dynamism and leadership make this appointment particularly humbling. And I thank
and remember Irv Meadows and all the veterans from eras preceding mine for welcoming
me into our beloved institution and nurturing my growth during the better part of
the last two decades.
I will continue to rely on your support and feedback as we build upon the legacy
our forbearers handed down.
I will do my utmost to honor your service through the decisions we make that impact
the lives of so many.
And if I may be so bold as to issue a challenge to each of you, I encourage you
to make it a point to engage a fellow veteran who is not a member and bring that
individual into the fold the way you did for me 20 years ago. You never know how
significant your influence can be until you take that extra step and ask someone
to become involved in our cause.
I look forward to serving as your National Adjutant and thank you for the faith
and confidence you have shown me.