The night of Friday, Oct. 6 was an emotional night for many people. The Collin County Business Alliance held a small reception to honor a man who is responsible for many contributions to Collin County. United States Congressman Sam Johnson secured the approval for two new local Veterans Health Clinics. With Johnson’s backing, veterans no longer need to commute to Dallas for medical assistance.
The reception was held at the Capital One Conference Center. The event started out with approximately thirty minutes of free time to allow the guests to mingle and network. The excitement and fervor from the patrons chatting all but drowned out the pianist lightly tickling the ivories in the back of the room.
As soon as the revered congressman entered the room, the entire placed died down to a complete silence; not even the sound of somebody talking in a hushed tone could be detected. Every patron wanted to witness Johnson, the man of the hour, enter the room.
Once Johnson was led to his seat at the front of the room, the Plano West Color Guard marched in the room to present the colors.
After everybody recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Sanjiv Yajnik, the CCBA chairman, welcomed all the guests and explained the purpose of the reception.“I am excited for the opportunity to honor and elevate a Collin County hero,” Yajnik said.
Johnson spent 29 years in the Air Force; seven of those years, he was a prisoner of war. After retiring from the Air Force, Johnson switched his focus of dedication to some degree of a political office. “Johnson is retiring from Congress, but starting a legacy,” Yajnik said.
Once Yajnik finished his speech, Johnson received an honorary SMU MilVet pin, a group that helps veteran students meet others of the same. Johnson took the podium after the pinning. He began explaining that he had started a scholarship for SMU vets and their families and how it all began.
“For the seven years that I was a POW, two and a half of those years, my wife did not even know if I was alive,” Johnson said. “She never gave up. My children were attempting to start college.” However, because of the uncertainty of him being alive, his children were unable to receive any assistance for college. “There were absolutely no benefits for my family,” Johnson said.
Johnson decided that no other family should ever have to experience what his went through. “For the heroes among us, I am starting a scholarship of $100,000 for vets and their families,” Johnson announced to the hushed crowd. As the crowed began clapping, Johnson explained that it will be an endowed scholarship, meaning the money will be generated off the interest. This means that the scholarship can be recurring and not just a one-time deal.
After, Yajnik proclaimed that the CCBA decided to help. “When we found out about the scholarship, we knew we had to jump in and help,” Yajnik said. “We are donating the $25,000 seed money for the scholarship.” This means the scholarship can be awarded immediately — it does not have to wait for the interest to start rolling in.
When the end of the program was near, Johnson — who attended flight school with Buzz Aldrin — asked all the guests an important question. “What is your legacy? What do you want to teach the future?”