By J.B. Blocker
‘The Blind Side’ is a great True Story and a movie that garnered an Oscar for Sandra Bullock. You have to give a lot of credit to the young man, Michael Ohr, for keeping his moral and ethical bearings even though he was living his childhood in a fatherless and dysfunctional home.
In this story, there are two main characters, and I wonder where Michael would be without the strength and virtual adoption by a family of character and means.
I recently uncovered another such story that is playing out in Collin County and right before our eyes. However, in this story, the young man fights a few additional challenges, and he earns every inch and every dime.
YOU BE THE JUDGE
Was it Fate?
Jay was a few weeks from graduation from Richardson High School and his 18th birthday when he was ready to commit to the Navy Reserves. He wanted to hit the first available Basic Training as soon as he graduated. You see, Jay didn’t really have a healthy home, and he was determined to make his way on his own. He saw his opportunity in military service.
He knew his father had been in the Army. But he didn’t know much about it. His father had died when Jay was 4, and his mother remarried and had his and his sister Sara’s last name changed before registering for SS#’s.
Since that time, many men had moved in and out of his mothers’ dysfunctional world. This was one reason the young man was preparing for his next stage in life at age 17.
It’s the reason Jay got his mother to sign a minors release.
It’s the reason the Navy had to conduct an investigation because of the lack of the required two parent signatures.
It's how Jay found out his father was alive!
If Jay had waited a few more weeks, he would have been of legal age and the investigation would have never been called for!
Clyde Harrow was a 6-9 Nebraska farm boy. He was also a U.S. Army Sergeant in Special Forces who served three tours in Viet Nam before being retired as medically disabled.
He would lose his battle at age 54 to a shrapnel wound that had damaged his heart. He got that wound on his third tour where he received his third and fourth Purple Hearts. But his greatest heartache was returning from a tour to find that his wife and two children had disappeared.
It would be nearly 14 years before he would be contacted by a Naval Investigator to sign his sons "enlistment as a minor" authorization.
|Clyde Harrow and Jay|
The last four years were bitter sweet. “I found out that my father had spent much of his time and resources trying to find us. He had even hired private investigators, but my mother had covered our tracks too well.”
The two became good friends with common grounds of service and ethics.
“Finding my father was priceless, but realizing my mother had been deceiving us all those years and had deprived us of a relationship was literally a final straw.”
He has been estranged from his mother ever since but maybe he always had been.
A BURNING HUNGER
Chris Burns has been Jay’s best friend since they were teenagers. The former accounting executive turned airline pilot grew up in a moderately affluent family in Richardson. His brother is now Judge Burns and his father Robert Sr. was also an airline pilot.
“Jay was always skinny and malnourished," Burns said. "He was a phenomenal runner and bicyclist who was held back mostly because of his lack of nutrition. We were on the Matrix team with Lance Armstrong, and I still think if Jay had had the equipment and decent nutrition, he could have competed on a Masters level.
I remember after one bicycle race that Jay was sick with dry heaves afterward. When I asked if he was sick, he admitted that he hadn’t eaten in over a day! His diet was pathetic because there was never any food at his home.
Even when he ate at our home he wouldn’t eat very much. It was because he had trained himself to eat as little as possible. But it was more than that! Jay never wanted to take advantage of anyone and so when most teenage boys ate everything in front of them, Jay just ate small portions.
“Our family realized that if he was going to have any support, it wouldn’t be from his mother. He basically adopted us, and my family accepted him," Burns said. “I have always been very picky about my friendships. Still am! We had a common ground of ethics and compassion and thankfully, my family saw the same things in Jay and welcomed him into our lives. He probably spent more time and shared more meals with my family than his.
This relationship has continued on even through and after college. He never was indulgent, and he treated food as an afterthought. It’s hard to miss what you never really had, but food!
“Knowing how Jay had to grow up gave me an appreciation for my family and what I had that I must always be grateful for. He is in every sense a brother and even though we didn’t adopt him formally, he will always be family.”
Craig Myers is an attorney practicing in Dallas. He and Chris Burns were two of Jay’s closest friends in high school.
“Jay has always shown integrity and character with little family support," Myers said. "When others could easily get off track in similar situations, he remained optimistic and honorable. You can only call it inner strength and character.
The best judges are intelligent, fair, and have high integrity. Jay has always been all of that and more. He never blamed his circumstances but always gave his best. His whole life reflects that.”
“Jay always wanted to be a productive member of society," Myers said. "He wanted a college education, and he earned it on his own. He has always been self reliant, focused, and honorable. Your Honor will fit him just fine.”
Robert Burns Sr. shares this: “Jay kind of adopted us. He sensed that he needed a healthy relationship, and we realized that he didn’t know what a normal home was. Even so, he has always been clear minded and open hearted. I don’t know where he found the courage to stand up for himself without carrying any chips on his shoulders, but that is his character.
While Jay is earning an Economics and Business degree Cum Laude, he serves eight years in the Naval Reserve and works at two other jobs. He trained as an aviation mechanic and even spent a few weeks at Miramar of 'Top Gun' fame.
“There was nothing really romantic about the Top Gun school for me," Bender said. "For every hour in the air, an F-14 requires 40 hours of mechanic's time. We worked 24 on and 24 off. I was trained to work on all mechanical aspects of a fighter jet.”
Jay, the perpetual over achiever, is hired by Andersen Consulting and quickly becomes a $250K-plus earner. He basically self taught himself to develop all around expertise in designing, installing, and implementing sophisticated "Deep Technology."
He could probably have retired comfortably by now or be making really Big money. So what did he do?
He saved his money! He still ate poorly but at least healthier. He had another goal!
“I wanted to serve the community, and flying around the country working with technology was not fulfilling. I wanted to go to law school, so I saved every dime.”
FOR THE DEFENSE
Jay has been a prosecutor for both Dallas and Collin County.
What he found out quickly is that he wanted to become a judge one day.
“Once I had enough exposure to the court system, I started analyzing the make up of very good judges. I knew then that I could be committed, fair, and compassionate. I knew I could serve the community with honor by defending the rights of others.”
|Jay and Brighton|
"I now have the family I always wanted and a community to serve. We have worked tirelessly as a team to try to earn the support of the voters. I don’t have years of experience as an attorney but I have years of honorable accomplishments and a life time of always going the extra mile to do the best that I can.”
Jay Bender is running for re-election as the Judge at Collin County Court of Law #6.
Is he Conservative? When Jay was taking economics in college, he was showering one day when he started calculating how much time he was wasting by shampoos, hair cuts, and combing.
When he calculated that he would redeem a year of his life just by not having to shampoo and care for his hair, he immediately shaved his head. He later calculated the savings in cost of goods to reinforce his decision.
To see him on video please go to http://www.youtube.com/user/jayabender
Judge Bender has proven to be a respected judge. Don’t let this story sit on your lap. Send it to your list of people who like or need to be inspired.
Hi, JB! It was a pleasure to "meet" and chat with you!
I read your article about Jay and loved it. Thanks for sharing Jay's inspirational story!
As we discussed, I've put Jay's family picture on my website. The link that you can put in your article is: http://imagesbyzodie.com/?
link takes you directly to their picture. "Images By