PRESIDENT’S PAGE November 2021
This Veterans Day, Let’s Turn Gratitude Into Action
Because I grew up in El Paso, home to Fort Bliss (the largest installation in U.S. Army Forces Command), I have always been surrounded by members of the military, their families, and the veterans who choose to remain after their active-duty days are completed. I have kept company with family members of soldiers deployed to dangerous duty stations while scenes of war in the Middle East unfolded in real time on cable television. I have personally witnessed the joy of families being reunited after an overseas deployment. I have even had the privilege of visiting wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. That was a life-changing experience.
To say that I have a deep-seated sense of gratitude to those who serve our country and their families would be a gross understatement. I have chosen to use my term as president to refocus our attention on the need for additional legal services for veterans and to make certain lawyers across the state are aware of opportunities to serve.
Veterans who otherwise can’t afford legal services need pro bono help with issues such as estate planning, government benefits, divorce, guardianship, landlord/tenant matters, and other basic legal questions.
As Veterans Day is upon us, and we take a moment to show our gratitude to those who have sacrificed so much for us, let us also examine how we can repay our debt for the freedoms we enjoy. This year, we must re-double our efforts.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacted a heavy toll on our veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has found the nature of the pandemic may trigger or worsen PTSD symptoms. At the same time, the pandemic caused a contraction in the number of pro bono veterans’ legal services clinics available in Texas.
In 2010, the State Bar of Texas, under the direction of then-President Terry Tottenham, created the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, or TLTV, program. TLTV is modeled after a program started by the Houston Bar Association in 2008. The program offers a simple, ready-made “Clinic in a Box” that organizations can use to host pro bono legal services clinics for veterans. The Clinic in a Box comes with everything an organization needs to host a veterans’ legal clinic, including forms, signs, office supplies, and educational material.
At the last State Bar Board of Directors meeting, I challenged the directors to help our veterans by participating in or hosting a virtual or in-person veterans’ legal clinic in each of their districts. I am issuing that same challenge to all of you.
In honor of Veterans Day, connect with your local bar association and inquire if it has a scheduled clinic that could use your volunteer help. You can find a calendar of scheduled veterans’ legal clinics at texasbar.com/veterans.
If there are no clinics in your area, has your local bar association heard about the Clinic in a Box? To request a Clinic in a Box, contact the State Bar’s Local Bar Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-204-2222, ext. 1514.
As veterans struggle with the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 20th anniversary of September 11, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan—finding pro bono civil legal assistance shouldn’t be an additional burden.
Finally, if you are a veteran, an active duty servicemember, or a supporting family member, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you have done and continue to do in service to our country. We will do more.
Sylvia Borunda Firth
State Bar of Texas
Sylvia Borunda Firth can be reached by email at email@example.com..TBJ