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DOWNS WITH IT: Lee Downs receives Man of the Year award

Mineral Wells Index - 1/8/2018

Jan. 06--AmVets Post 133 Commander Clay Roundtree said the first military veteran Lee Downs assisted with benefits was Gen. George Washington.

That was just one of the barbs and teases tossed at 78-year-old Downs on Thursday as he was presented his award as the Mineral Wells Index's 2017 Man of the Year, sponsored by Diamond Pharmacy.

"See what I have to put up with in here? I should be Superman of the Year," quipped Veterans Service Officer Downs from behind his desk inside his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 133 office.

It was Roundtree who could hardly keep secret Lee's selection for the honor before its public announcement on Saturday. Roundtree was notified a couple of weeks before and participated in the announcement article.

"He kept coming asking me if I heard any news or got anything special?" Down said. "I said, 'No, why would I get something special?' He couldn't keep it to himself."

Since Saturday, Lee has received numerous congratulations and thank yous for his work as a VSO. To date, Downs has helped hundreds of veterans and their families receive money, benefits and services to the tune of more than $8 million.

Tanks to Downs, veterans have received medical benefits and services. Widows have received back pay and monthly support. Mortgages have been paid off. Children have been able to go to college. Down has truly changed lives in some unimaginable ways.

"That is one of things I like about this job," said Downs. "I see veterans here in Texas who didn't know they had any benefits coming. That's why I keep a log book, showing $8,271,000 to date."

After a 20-year Navy career, Downs went to work in the insurance industry and then operated a funeral home in Florida. It was there he first became a veterans service officer.

"I started doing it in my funeral home," he said. "It got me business because all of the veterans in town said, 'Go to Lee.'"

Two years ago the State of Texas recognized his efforts and work, bestowing on Downs the honor of Senior Volunteer of the Year.

He said the Index's Man of the Year honor took him by complete surprise.

"It's a big honor, it really is," he said. "I never expected it. I can't believe you had a two-page write up in there. It was fantastic. I was pleasantly surprised. I never expected it but I really appreciate it."

Downs has been training Roundtree to be the next area veterans service officer. Though Downs, who turns 79 this month, said he isn't planning on quitting any time soon.

"Till they drag me out," he responded when asked how much longer he would work. "I'm not a golfer and I can't sit around and watch TV all day."

So expect for some time to find Downs in his office, talking with veterans and their families, fighting with the Veterans Administration to get them everything they have coming to them, and taking a good dose of good-natured ribbing from his post buddies.

The 2017 Woman of the Year is Mineral Wells High School freshman Erin Hite. The Index plans to soon present her with her award.

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(c)2018 the Mineral Wells Index (Mineral Wells, Texas)

Visit the Mineral Wells Index (Mineral Wells, Texas) at www.mineralwellsindex.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 
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