By Roberto Hugo González
The TRB Annual Event started with Jamie Brown Rosas, the Director of Business Development at TRB, setting a tone of gratitude and respect. Her opening remarks were filled with warmth and enthusiasm, as she spoke of the organization’s dedication to recognizing the sacrifices of veterans. Highlighting this sentiment, Jamie invited the veterans present to stand, acknowledging their service with a heartfelt round of applause. This act, though simple, resonated with deep appreciation and respect for their contributions.
The event’s next speaker, a figure familiar to many yet deserving of formal recognition, was Jim Darling. Having served the city of McAllen in various capacities, including as a city attorney, city commissioner, and mayor, Jim’s journey of service extended beyond local governance. His remarkable military career began in the US Air Force, where he completed two tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Following this, he continued his service in the US Navy Reserves from 1973 to 1977.
Jim’s academic achievements are equally impressive, holding a BA and JD from Baylor University. His commitment to community service is evident through his pro bono work as general counsel for McAllen Affordable Homes, earning him the Johnny Cook Award from the Hidalgo County Bar Association for his extensive voluntary legal work. His recent appointment as chairman of the board of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce is a testament to his dedication and leadership.
Addressing the audience, Jim expressed modesty over his accomplishments, shifting focus to the collective effort in supporting veterans. He shared his deep connection to Texas, praising the state’s support for veterans. Jim also touched on the significant contribution of Marines from the Valley, recalling a personal anecdote from 1967 that highlighted his near enlistment with the Marines. This story underscored the spirit of commitment and bravery characteristic of those who serve.
The event thus served as a reminder of the sacrifices made by veterans and the importance of community leaders like Darling, who continue to serve and inspire. Through such gatherings, TRB not only honors the past but also fosters a spirit of unity and respect that is vital for the future.
Darling shared a focal moment from his past, one that significantly shaped his military career. He recounted a humorous yet insightful encounter at the recruitment offices, where he was persuaded to join the forces due to his stature, deemed ideal for tunnel operations in Vietnam. This conversation led him to choose the Air Force, a decision influenced by his desire to avoid the dangerous role of a tunnel rat, a position known for its high fatality rate.
Jim’s story transitioned into a more serious reflection on the challenges faced by returning veterans, particularly those who served in Vietnam. He posed a question to the audience, identifying Vietnam veterans among them, and spoke candidly about the reception they received upon their return. Unlike current times where veterans are celebrated, those returning from Vietnam often faced indifference or outright hostility. This lack of acceptance made their reintegration into civilian life particularly challenging.
Jim recalled his own experience, noting the diverse attitudes among veterans themselves. He described three distinct groups he encountered at community college: those strongly opposed to the war, those who continued to support it, and veterans like himself who were simply relieved to have survived and returned home. His observation highlighted the varied and complex perspectives that veterans held, shaped by their unique experiences and the contentious nature of the Vietnam War.
This part of Jim’s speech at the TRB event served as a reminder of the diverse and often difficult paths that veterans navigate upon their return from service. It underscored the importance of understanding and addressing the needs of veterans, recognizing the sacrifices they have made, and ensuring they receive the respect and support they deserve in civilian life. Darling’s reflections provided a powerful insight into the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life, especially in a time when attitudes towards veterans were vastly different from today.
In the concluding segment of the TRB Annual Event, Darling shifted the focus towards the present and future, emphasizing the importance of community support for returning veterans. He expressed gratitude for having made it back from service and his determination to contribute as a good citizen. Darling highlighted the contrast between his era and now, where veterans often find themselves returning alone, without the immediate support of fellow servicemen and women. He urged the audience, especially those in business and community leadership, to actively support veterans integrating back into society, recognizing the unique challenges they face.
Darling also reflected on the crucial role of the GI Bill in his life. He credited this benefit for his ability to attend college and pursue his career, acknowledging that without it, his path might have been drastically different. He expressed his gratitude to the country for providing this opportunity, underscoring the importance of such support systems for veterans. His journey from a veteran to a mayor and lawyer served as a testament to the transformative impact of post-service educational benefits.
Jamie then took the stage to reiterate the event’s theme of honoring and supporting veterans. She reminded everyone that each attendee either was a veteran, supported veterans, or actively advocates for veteran causes. Recognizing the wealth of experiences and stories within the room, she encouraged attendees to share their narratives with each other, fostering a sense of community and mutual understanding.
Jamie also shared a personal connection to the veteran community, mentioning her father, Joe Brown, a veteran of the US Coast Guard. Although he couldn’t attend the event, she highlighted his significance to her, the city, and her family, further personalizing the message of the day.
This final phase of the TRB Annual Event condensed the spirit of gratitude, community, and support. It served not only as a tribute to veterans but also as a call to action for continued and enhanced support for those who have served. The event closed on a note of unity, with an invitation for all to engage, share, and strengthen the bonds within the veteran and supporter community.
Written by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez, the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year Award Winner & The 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Award recipient.