Honor the bravery, heritage, and tradition of America’s heroes
By Trey Apffel

Our nation is founded on the principles of law and is proud of the military tradition it continues through the men and women who gallantly serve us. Every day, they put their lives on the line and fight with valor, tenacity, and loyalty to preserve the freedoms that we are accustomed to.

Yet, through their many sacrifices, these honorable members of our Armed Forces face many challenges. On a single night last year, researchers counted nearly 58,000 homeless veterans across our nation, including almost 4,000 in Texas. Veterans also face a lack of affordable housing options, suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and experience difficulty with legal issues pertaining to disability benefits, corrections of military records, and compensation and pension claims.

Sensing that need, then-State Bar President Terry Tottenham of Austin, a retired Marine, helped launch Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, a program to develop and assist with pro bono legal clinics throughout the state for military veterans who otherwise cannot afford or lack access to the legal services they need. Since the project’s launch four years ago, approximately 4,000 volunteer attorneys have assisted more than 13,000 veterans through local bar associations’ legal clinics, addressing issues such as bankruptcy, housing, employment, wills and estate planning, and landlord-tenant disputes. In Texas, more than 55 local bar associations host weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or annual legal advice clinics for veterans, and the State Bar has shared the program with attorney organizations and pro bono groups in 25 other states.

Last year, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, part of the State Bar of Texas, produced two informative pamphlets—Resources for Veterans Seeking Help and Resources for Lawyers Assisting Veterans—and distributed them to more than 13,000 veterans and nearly 3,400 lawyers. To reach veterans in rural areas, the association hosted two free legal advice clinics in Gillespie and Van Zandt counties, where members of the TYLA Board of Directors offered legal counsel and informational guides and drafted medical and financial powers of attorney to more than 30 veterans.

In May, the Texas Access to Justice Commission raised more than $351,000 through its annual Champions of Justice Gala to help provide civil legal services to veterans with limited incomes. The State Bar of Texas paid expenses at the event to make sure every penny of the proceeds went to help veterans get the legal help they need.

Also, as part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, the State Bar is joining with the Texas Court Reporters Association and local bar associations to record veterans’ oral histories. To date, the partnership has resulted in more than 200 interviews with veterans in Austin, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Edinburg, Fort Worth, Hillsboro, Houston, Rockwall, and San Antonio.

Attorneys play a crucial role in helping our veterans as they provide the legal assistance they need. Attorneys are always welcomed to get involved in a legal clinic in their community. For a complete listing of upcoming legal clinics and other resources, visit texasbar.com/veterans.

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 the first Armistice Day, commemorating the agreement between the Allied Nations and Germany that brought an end to fighting in World War I. Armistice Day became a legal holiday in 1938, and since 1954 we have known it as Veterans Day.

John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” As we celebrate Veterans Day this year, let us honor the bravery, heritage, and tradition of America’s heroes—the men and women who tirelessly risked their lives for our freedoms. We owe it to them to make a huge impact in their lives as they justly have in ours.

Trey Apffel is president of the State Bar of Texas and the founder and owner of Apffel Law Firm in League City. He may be reached via email at statebarpresident@texasbar.com.

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