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Veterans cemetery director resigns following board member's remarks

Posted at 8:26 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 23:19:13-05

U.S veterans proudly serve their country and many of them find a final resting place at one of the four-state veteran cemeteries here in Texas.

It’s a solemn place for veterans and those who have family members laid to rest in the cemeteries.

"For me, when I miss him, to be able to drive out here and ... know that he is in a safe location, it’s clean, and that it represents what he fought for; the freedom and sacrifice with his comrades, it means the world to me,” said Debbie Nash-King, a veteran who’s husband is buried in Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.

That is why the Deputy Director of the Texas State Veterans Cemetery Program, Eric Brown, was offended that the chief investment officer for the General Land Office, Rusty Martin, made statements implying that he saw no reason to invest in Veterans cemeteries while speaking at a public hearing.

"Putting any kind of money into money-losing programs, I just don’t think that’s good business sense," said Martin. "That's not the way I was trained, that doesn’t make sense to me.”
- Chief Investment Officer Rusty Martin for the General Land Office

Brown said all he could think about in light of those comments was being in combat in Somalia.

"I thought if being in Saudi Arabia next to my counterparts," said Brown. "I thought of Gold Star parents who have loved ones buried at these cemeteries.”

That is why he immediately spoke up at the meeting for those veterans after hearing Martin’s comments.

"Every person in this room, a veteran would lay down their life for you," said Brown at the public hearing. "So, be careful in your choice of words.”

Brown claims that the comments made at the meeting were part of a pattern that has now led to his resignation in protest.

"I had a lot of thoughts about this after the meeting," said Brown. "I made the decision to resign in protest. Primarily because I have been fighting the good fight for about eight years with the cemeteries.”

Those with loved ones at the veteran's cemetery said Martin’s comments have left them in disbelief.

”How can you put a price on a veteran’s life when they have already given the ultimate sacrifice for this country,” said Nash-King.

Brown said he hopes that his resignation brings light to what he says is a systemic cultural problem of lack of support for veterans within the General Land Office.

“The remarks made by the CIO during the VLB cemetery meeting are in no way representative of the views of Commissioner Bush or the GLO," said Mark Havens, chief clerk and deputy land commissioner at the Texas General Land Office. "Any statements that disparage these hallowed grounds are insulting to not only our Veterans but our state’s commitment to honoring those who have served.”