BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Do you know what happens when you don’t take time to stop and remember? Things in the past and memories become vague and no longer important. President Harry S Truman once remarked, “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” Unfortunately, in such a fast paced world it is all too easy to forget. Carol Burns and members of the DAVA [Disabled American Veteran’s Auxiliary] are giving their time to recognize Polk County’s veterans.
Carol grew up and was raised in Pennsylvania and started her family there before moving to Hutchinson, Kansas. While living in Kansas, Carol came to visit her husband’s family in Arkansas for vacation. “We loved the state from the first time we came. The people were so friendly, we got the biggest kick out of everybody smiling and waving,” Carol recalls smiling. Within three months they packed up their house and moved to Malvern, Arkansas where Carol owned and operated a deli. Her husband was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer and passed six months later. After transferring to Mena to work at Walmart, she met Fletcher square dancing and the couple would later get married. Fletcher passed a couple of years later and Carol married Rex Burns in September of 2009. “I had known Rex from square dancing as well and he was so sweet. On Mother’s Day in 2009 he brought me a bouquet of flowers and asked me out on a date. We got married in September,” says Carol smiling.
Through Rex’s 26 years of faithful service in the Navy and Air Force, after getting married, Carol became involved in DAVA. The organization is for the spouses, or mother, or child of a veteran who has served in the armed forces. The DAV [Disabled American Veterans] is a nonprofit charity that seeks to provide support for veterans and their families. There are almost 1,300 chapters and 1.3 million members across the country that are providing resources to veterans and their families. One of the notable ways this is done in Mena is through the DAV van that takes veterans to their appointments in Little Rock. Carol has served as the Commander of the local DAVA, but now serves as the treasurer. When the opportunity provided itself for Carol to become involved, it wasn’t a hard choice, “I just really like to work with the vets and help them. I saw what we could do in the community and I wanted to help,” explains Carol.
There are many ways that members of the DAV are serving veterans, but the biggest way is just making themselves available to serve. “There are many different ways that we serve the veterans, we have even went and cleaned someone’s house before. There are just a lot of needs in the community that we can meet.” One of the most notable ways that Carol and others seek to serve the veterans is by recognizing them for their service. Each veteran that Carol and other members find out is now in the nursing home will receive a plaque to hang outside their door so that friends or family passing by will know that there is a veteran in the room. “So many of these veterans are selfless and served without receiving any recognition. We just want to make sure that they receive recognition for their service and we hope that people will stop in and thank them for their service,” says Carol.
While the DAVA is only for spouses or children of veterans, there are still many ways that people can help Carol serve veterans. Each year the DAV has several fundraisers to help fund the services they provide for veterans. This past year they raffled off a king size quilt and made $1250. People in the community can always donate money to help with their projects, but Carol also says people can donate their time. “One of the things we want to do for veterans in the nursing home is provide lap quilts. People can make lap quilts, we always need more quilts,” Carol says. Often many veterans don’t have family close or anyone to visit with them and so Carol and many others will go to the nursing homes to sit down and visit with them. “Going to visit the veterans is just another way to serve them and honor them for their service. Many of them don’t have people come visit them and so people visiting makes their day. Sometimes we go and just tell them about what’s going on in town or talk about the weather. Anybody can do it.”
Many men and women have made sacrifices for their country and some, the ultimate sacrifice. Carol demonstrates for everyone watching the importance and need to recognize our veterans, even if in the smallest ways.