Congressman Sam Johnson honored on POW – MIA Recognition Day
State Rep. Pete Olson: “My hero Sam Johnson spent 7 yrs as a POW in Hanoi. We honor all POWs & all Missing In Action.” #NeverForget #POWMIARecognitionDay

Congressman Sam Johnson was recognized by Houston Texas State Rep. Pete Olson on Prison of War – Missing in Action Day.

Congressman Johnson,
Thanks for all you have done for Collin County and Texas and for your service.

What is a hero?

By Gen. Peter Pace
United States Marine Corps (Ret.)

Who’s your hero?

We often respond to such a question with the name of a talented actor, gifted athlete, generous philanthropist, charismatic leader or perhaps a famous historical figure. Sometimes we use the word “hero” to describe our admiration and appreciation for those who have broken a world record, overcome personal obstacles to accomplish greatness or even enriched our lives with an act of kindness.

Heroism is more than talent, success, generosity, strength or determination. Heroes emerge when courage and selflessness combine, resulting in amazing acts that serve others.

Our nation’s men and women in uniform demonstrate real heroism every day. Quite simply the finest armed forces in the world, these incredible warriors put their lives on the line to defend the freedoms we all hold dear.

With a full understanding of exactly what service to this nation means – often facing repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan – these young men and women raise their right hands and continue to serve with exceptional courage and selflessness. They remain committed to making a difference, choosing to be part of something bigger than self.

This level of dedication cannot be ordered or demanded, it can only be given. Their gift will ensure that our children, and our children’s children, enjoy the same freedoms that Americans have enjoyed since the birth of this nation.

That gift of service simply would not be possible without our military families, who offer quiet strength and untold support. Through long deployments, they sustain morale from afar while maintaining the family foundation at home, despite daily challenges and unspoken worries. Our military families serve this nation as well as anyone who has ever worn a uniform, and for that we are eternally grateful.

True heroes do not consider the title appropriate. They often describe their personal feats as “just doing my job” – a “job” that makes our other hero-worshipping possible.

This series of articles offers a closer view of just a few of these heroes. By highlighting the courageous and selfless actions of our dedicated military personnel, we honor their service and demonstrate our gratitude.

To our heroes in uniform: Thank you. America values your courage, character and sense of duty.

Gen. Peter Pace retired from the United States Marine Corps in 2007 after 40 years of military service. Beginning as a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam, he rose to the most senior position in the United States Armed Forces, the first Marine to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Smiles Charity helps Operation Finally Home

By Karen Holden

Smiles Charity officially began its fund-raising drive for 2011 on Thursday at a ceremony in downtown McKinney.
Hosted by Rick’s Chophouse, the Smiles Charity kick-off ceremony officially announced the charity’s name change and new mission.
“In order to better serve a broader base of beneficiaries, a name change was necessary,” said Smiles Charity founder Dr. Jennifer Buchanan. “Our goal is to raise money to build homes for deserving families who are struggling with adversity. There are families in need of affordable housing and for three years, Smiles Charity has raised money to build homes through the North Collin County Habitat for Humanity.”
“Sadly, an increasing form of adversity is life-long disability that thousands of veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home to deal with,” she said. “Smiles Charity is proud to announce that in 2011, our Smiles Charity concert will raise money to build two homes for two severely wounded war veterans and their families.”
Smiles Charity will donate its net proceeds in 2011 to Operation Finally Home, a Houston-based non-profit organization that specifically builds mortgage free homes for severely wounded veterans. Operation Finally Home has built 12 homes since 2005 and currently has 10 homes under construction including several in North Texas.
The Smiles Charity kick-off ceremony featured a presentation by Dr. Buchanan on how her charity was founded, what it has accomplished, and where it is headed in the future. Dr. Buchanan’s vision is to bring the community together to change the world one home, one family at a time.
Smiles Charity is dedicated to achieving local results through a unique fund-raising concept which showcases how economic investment and the will to help a neighbor can benefit an entire community. Dr. Buchanan fought back tears during her presentation as she remembered her former patient Cody Board, who died in Afghanistan earlier this week.
Dan Wallrath, a Houston area home builder, shared how he founded Operation Finally Home after a request from a friend whose son returned home from Iraq in a wheelchair.
After renovating that first home to be wheelchair accessible, the project took off. He enlisted the help of his friends in the building business and began building new homes for severely wounded veterans.
He said, “There are 38,000 young men and women returning home with severe injuries. We won’t stop until we’ve built 38,000 homes.”
Wallrath has been nominated for CNN’s Hero of the Year for his efforts. Visit for more information and to vote for Dan Wallrath.
Dan Vargas, executive director of Operation Finally Home, also spoke and thanked the audience for supporting Smiles Charity and the veterans who are receiving homes. Vargas introduced McKinney resident Levi Wilson, Sergeant, US Army (ret.) and his wife Katie as one of two families who will benefit from the net proceeds of the 2011 Smiles Charity Concert.
Alan Hornaday, Sergeant 1st Class, US Army (ret), his wife Sheila and their three children will be the second family to benefit from the concert.
Donny Daughenbaugh, Corporal, US Marines (ret.), has been the official spokesperson for Operation Finally Home after the organization built him a home. He spoke about how honored he feels to have a home built for him, his wife, and their two young children. He said his children will grow up knowing that the country their father served has taken care of them. Because the home he received is mortgage free, Donny and his wife are now full time college students and looking forward to a very bright future.
Although the Smiles Charity Concert will not be held until May 29th, 2011, fund-raising efforts are already under way. 12,000 attended the Smiles concert and festival in May 2010. An event that large requires a yearlong planning process. The event itself is underwritten by generous corporate and local sponsors, like Simpson Strong Tie, who share Buchanan’s vision. Simpson Strong Tie has already committed to monetary support for Smiles Charity as well as donating supplies and labor to building the homes.

Veterans Job Fair Thursday in Frisco

Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, Workforce Solutions for Dallas County, Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County and Texas Veterans Commission are teaming up to host the 2010 Veterans Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 13 at the Embassy Suites Dallas-Frisco Conference Center.

“This partnership reflects Workforce Solutions’ commitment to finding work for local veterans. I encourage any employer looking for a superior employee to attend the 2010 Veterans Job Fair. I also encourage all out-of-work veterans to attend; there will be some great opportunities available,” said Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas Executive Director, David Setzer.

62 employers with over 500 open positions available are signed up to participate in the event. Employers include: AutoZone, BNSF Railway, Charter Communications, the Dallas Sheriff’s Department, FedEx Express, and Medical Center of McKinney. In addition to meeting potential employers, veterans can receive information about state and federal benefits.

Registration is not required for veterans seeking employment. Registration is required for any employer wishing to attend.

In partnership with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas is one of 28 local workforce boards throughout the state. With a budget of more than $50 million, the board serves Collin, Denton, Ellis, Erath, Hood, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Navarro, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Somervell, and Wise counties. The primary goal of the workforce board is to meet the needs of Texas employers through locally designed, market-driven workforce development initiatives and services. All employers, workers, and job seekers are eligible to take advantage of these services. Visit for more information.

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Legal tips: Veterans benefits

By Matt Sullivan, Viewpoint
The freedoms that America enjoys and has enjoyed over the years aren’t due to the actions of “smooth-talking” politicians. They are the result of the sacrifices made by brave American military Veterans and their families. Those people have earned and are entitled to benefits from the government.
Two types of Veterans benefits are known as Compensation and Pension. Compensation is awarded to the Veteran to compensate for a potential loss of income in the private sector due to a disability, injury, or illness incurred while in the military. To receive this benefit, the Veteran must have evidence of a service-connected disability. Most recipients are awarded an amount based on a percentage of disability. There is usually no income or asset test for this benefit and it is non-taxable.
Pension provides supplemental income to qualified Veterans who have non-service connected disabilities or who are at least a certain age. If the Veteran’s income exceeds the Pension limit, then there is no award. It is possible, however, to adjust the Veteran’s income for unreimbursed medical expenses which can allow someone with an income above the Pension limit to qualify for the benefit. An asset test must also be satisfied in order to qualify for Pension. This benefit is often referred to as “Pension with Aid & Attendance.”
To possibly qualify for Pension, the Veteran must have served at least 90 days on active duty with at least one day being during a time of war and must not have been dishonorably discharged. It is not necessary that the Veteran served in combat to qualify for Pension. Surviving spouses of a qualified Veteran are also eligible for Pension in some situations.
There are numerous benefits afforded to Veterans and their families. Compensation and Pension are only two of them. To learn more, please visit
Matt Sullivan, J.D., LL.M., Attorney & Counselor at Law, can be reached at 903-482-0099 or through his law firm’s website,
This article is not intended as specific legal advice and you should consult with your own attorney.

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