As we make plans for this year’s Veterans Day on November 11, it is a good time to consider what is the best way to show care and concern for our military service members not just on Veterans Day, but throughout the year. According to Jackson Walker attorney Justin Lee, caring is about being informed about the military actions going on far from our shores.

“No one is planting victory gardens, and we’re not rationing. But we are still sending people to another country to fight, and we need to understand why we’re doing that,” he told Dallas Morning News in a recent interview. “We’re asking people to do incredible things. We’re handing rifles to 20-year-olds and asking them to shoot people. And that’s fine; that’s what you signed up for,” Lee said. “But at least [we] should care about them and appreciate what we’re asking of them.”

He also believes in keeping the memory of those who have offered to serve their country and lost their lives in the process. He wears a bracelet with the names of the five crew members of Extortion 17 (“one-seven”), the Chinook under his command that was shot down in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. The incident killed all 38 occupants, including 15 members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (known colloquially as “SEAL Team 6”), in the deadliest loss of U.S. forces during the Afghanistan war.

Justin “Buddy” Lee grew up in Tyler, Texas and was a junior at Texas A&M when the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001. That same day he obtained a medical waiver to pursue an Army commission. Lee spent several months flying humanitarian relief missions in Pakistan followed by two deployments to Afghanistan. He commanded a Chinook unit—nicknamed “Extortion”—during his second deployment in 2011.

A great deal of interest has surrounded the Extortion 17 mission. While the vast majority of such attempts to shoot down American helicopters fail, this one succeeded for one reason and one reason only—chance. According to Lee that is the one thing in war that no amount of training, skill, or technology will ever defeat. “If this [operation] was survivable, that was the right crew to have. There was a lot of experience in that cockpit, the flight engineers, and the door gunners. It was a good crew, it really was. One of the best crews in my company.”

Lee flew combat missions in Afghanistan for another eight months before returning home in 2012 and completing his contract with the Army. That same year, he enrolled in Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, graduating cum laude, and joined the litigation team here at Jackson Walker.

When asked about what we as Americans should take away from tragedies like the crash of Extortion 17, Lee states simply “Americans should care about what happens in Afghanistan because they’ve sent Americans to war there.” He himself has vowed to never forget what the men on that mission did.

Veterans Day is an official U.S. public holiday that honors those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marked the signing of the armistice that ended World War 1. It was celebrated for decades as Armistice Day before becoming known as Veterans Day under President Nixon in 1971. A listing of special gatherings and events recognizing this year’s Veterans Day across Texas can be found at Texvet.

About Justin V. Lee

Justin Lee is a Dallas-based business litigator and aviation attorney. He has handled a variety of commercial litigation matters, including partnership disputes and breach of contract claims, and has represented large airlines, insurers, manufacturers, fixed-base operators, and pilots in aviation matters.