The federal government is so big and so impersonal that it’s rare one person can make a difference. Cloyde Pinson was one person who did.
Eighteen years ago, the Veterans Department released a study identifying the 10 areas in the United States with the largest concentration of veterans not served by a convenient national cemetery. The Dallas-Ft.Worth area was high on the list.
There was one catch, however. The Veterans Department, after identifying the need, stated they didn’t have the money to construct new national cemeteries in these priority areas.
Cloyde Pinson, a World War II veteran from Irving, Texas (a suburb just west of Dallas), decided he would not take “no” for an answer. He organized a meeting of all north Texas veterans’ organizations to discuss the matter with his Congressman (me).
I agreed to take this on as a project and, 12 years later, a beautiful new national veteran’s cemetery was opened in the Southwest portion of the city of Dallas.
However, nothing is simple when dealing with the federal government and it was Cloyde’s persistence that helped make the difference. We were the ultimate political odd couple…Cloyde was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and I was a lifelong Democrat, but we both understood how important it was to honor the men and women who had served our country.
Let me tell you how this all happened. We had to convince the House Appropriations Subcommittee that dealt with veteran’s matters to add funding to the president’s budget since the President’s Office of Management and Budget would not permit the Veterans Department to request the funds from Congress.
This was accomplished in stages-- first funding for an environmental impact statement assessing all possible locations, then funding to purchase the land, then funding to design the cemetery and finally funding to construct the project.
Hearings by this particular subcommittee are held in a small room in the U.S. Capitol and only attended by a few members of the House of Representatives. Cloyde, a man of modest means, traveled to Washington at his own expense and testified before the subcommittee on several occasions.
However, what clinched the initial appropriation (essential to everything else that followed) was Cloyde’s appearance when he emotionally told the story about how his son, Cloyde Pinson Jr., age 20, had been killed in Vietnam. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room and we got the “new start” funding.
But Cloyde’s efforts didn’t stop there. He made sure there was a crowd of veterans in the room when the Veterans Department held the required public hearing at the Dallas Veterans Hospital to assess the various potential sites for the cemetery. Once the site was selected, he came back to Washington, again at his own expense, to testify before the Subcommittee when we sought funds to purchase the land for the designated location.
I remember visiting the raw site with him as we looked out over the rolling landscape. In the intervening years, Congress appropriated money to design the cemetery and finally to construct it. Cloyde would visit the site from time to time to check up on the construction, letting my staff know if things weren’t going exactly right.
He organized a foundation to fund some items not included in the government’s plans.
And then, shortly before Memorial Day in 2000, the new DFW National Cemetery was opened by the Veterans Department. Burials and reburials of veterans interred at other area cemeteries began immediately, and six years later usage has exceeded original projections by a significant amount.
On April 12 of this year, the remains of Cloyde Pinson Jr., who had been buried in 1967 at a nearby community cemetery, were reburied at the DFW National Cemetery after some of Cloyde’s friends raised the money to cover the cost. Cloyde was there to accept the American flag that draped the coffin.
Two days later, Cloyde Sr., 83, entered a local hospital for routine knee surgery. The night after the surgery, he died from a blood clot. A few days later, he was buried beside his son at the DFW National Cemetery.
On Sunday, May 21, there will be a special memorial service at the cemetery honoring Cloyde and his son. I will be there and so will countless other area veterans who will pay tribute to one man who made a difference.
Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.