The Texas Access to Justice Commission with its co-sponsor, the State Bar of Texas, honored veterans throughout the state at the 2021 Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans on April 6, 2021, via YouTube. This year, the commission raised approximately $448,000 to help provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans.
Texas Supreme Court Justices Eva Guzman and Brett Busby, both court liaisons to the commission, were masters of ceremony and welcomed guests to the virtual event. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and former Texas Supreme Court Justices Deborah Hankinson and Harriet O’Neill talked about the history of the commission, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the importance of providing civil legal services to low-income Texans.
The following award recipients were recognized: Beth Mitchell and Allison Eichenfeld Neal both received the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award, R. Paul Yetter received the Harry M. Reasoner Justice for All Award, and Fred Fuchs received the Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award.
Texas Access to Justice Commission Chair Harry M. Reasoner introduced keynote speaker Gen. Larry O. Spencer, former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force who retired in 2015 after 44 years of distinguished service to the U.S., having earned the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit. Spencer said he tries to support those whom he thinks are the backbone of the military—the enlisted. He talked about three enlisted men who were all injured during combat, in Japan for medical assistance (two were sent there and one was already stationed there), and then ultimately landed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland for recovery and treatment, where they met and became lifelong friends. The third man was Spencer’s father, and these three gentlemen grew up in Spencer’s home. He saw them all the time and grew up listening to their stories, things they had to go through as young soldiers. “What is fascinating to me about those three gentlemen is that they never complained,” Spencer said. “I never heard them say anything bad about their experiences. All three of them wanted to do one thing—and that is they wanted to serve our country.” Spencer said that all three were Purple Heart recipients and stayed in the U.S. Army for 20 years. “Those three gentlemen are the reason I joined the military,” Spencer said. “Because they instilled this sense of patriotism in me and they instilled in me this sense of love for our country and that it’s all about responsibility to make this country as strong as it can be.”
Spencer said it wasn’t until later in life that his father told him he attended a group that helped him with his PTSD from the Korean War. His father said back then you were told to suck it up and not complain. Spencer said he was thankful for all of the resources now available to veterans and thankful for all work by the commission. For more information about the Texas Access to Justice Commission, go to texasatj.org.
Above: Gen. Larry O. Spencer, retired. Photo by Michael Pausic