Our Way of Saying Thanks

A guest blog from Military Service Initiative supporter David Cox on honoring our nation's veterans.

One of President George W. Bush’s greatest legacies is the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative that every day looks for ways to honor our military heroes and help them make a successful transition to civilian life.

How vital is this work? There are more than 21 million veterans in America; and more than 1.6 million call Texas home.  The Bush Presidential Center’s work – especially with post-9/11 veterans – is changing the way we treat these heroes.  

Based on the premise that action speaks louder than words, the Bush Center has focused on programming that doesn’t just tell veterans how much we care, but actually shows them.  One of the hallmarks has been the effort to help veterans find employment.  For too long, employers have not been able to read between the lines of a veteran’s resume.  The Bush Center is changing that.  It’s showing potential employers that a veteran with “combat experience” is really a veteran with leadership skills who can thrive in a high-stress environment.  Most employers can teach job skills; but it’s much harder to teach leadership ability.  Thanks to the Bush Center, more employers are starting to see that veterans make for great employees. 

Still, the work of honoring our veterans is too big for any one organization to handle.  That’s why the Bush Center partners with businesses and charities to help do all the work necessary to salute our heroes.  I know because our company is one such partner. 

Lon Smith Roofing is the largest roofing contractor in the state.  And a few years ago we decided we wanted to be involved in honoring our returning veterans.  How could we use our business to help these heroes?  We looked into it and were shocked at how many veterans struggle when they return home.  Financial challenges can be extremely difficult.  And many veterans don’t have the resources for home repairs.  

As a result, in 2014 we started the “Roof for Vets” program.  Each quarter of the year, we select a local veteran who needs a new roof but can’t afford to buy one.  We show up, thank the veteran for his or her service and then install a new roof free of charge. 

While this program has blessed several veterans in the past few years, it has blessed us even more.  To meet these heroes and hear their stories makes it all worthwhile.

A few days ago, we installed a free, new roof for Harold Sanders, who served in Vietnam, then came home to the Fort Worth area where he worked for many years and raised a family.  A while back, his wife became gravely ill with cancer.  So Mr. Sanders acted like the soldier he is: He put his wife first and spent most of their savings trying to take care of her.  As a result, his broken roof couldn’t be replaced because he had invested his money on his wife’s health care.  

Mr. Sanders made the right decision to help his wife; and that made for an easy decision for us–we wanted to install a new and free roof for him.

On April 13, our crews arrived at his house in Forest Hill at 8 a.m. and went to work.  By 5 p.m., the new roof was complete.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Mr. Sanders said with tears in his eyes.  No Mr. Sanders, we can’t thank you enough.  

For serving our country in Vietnam, we thank you.

For doing everything you could to save your wife, we thank you.

For being a great example to us all, we thank you.

The “Roof for Vets” program is just one way that we at Lon Smith Roofing are trying to give back to those who have given so much to us.  To learn more about it, visit  

We can’t wait to honor more veterans later this year with free roof installations.  And we look forward to continuing our work with the Bush Center to shine the light on this important issue and help honor those who have honored us with their military service. 

David Cox is the President of Lon Smith Roofing, the largest roofing contractor in Texas. Lon Smith Roofing is a supporter of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative.