State Rep. Sharon Tyler: Thank you, veterans and active duty soldiersPublished 7:42am Thursday, May 19, 2011
As the war in Afghanistan continues, it sometimes seems like it has little to do with day-to-day life in America. In our community, however, the war feels very close to home with the recent passing of Navy Hospital Corpsman Benjamin Rast of Niles who died in April while coming to the aide of another unit in the Helmand province, and the passing of Sgt. Daniel Frazier, formerly of Niles and St. Joseph, who died from a car-bomber attack in Zabul province, Afghanistan in November 2009.
These two young men and their heroic efforts to defend and protect our country and our freedoms will not be forgotten. When I visited with Benjamin Rast’s parents the night before his memorial, it was not as a legislator, but as a mother. I came to the funeral home to pay my personal respects to this family without media scrutiny or quotes in the paper, because it hit so close to home–my son currently serves as a reserve Naval Corpsman assigned to a Marine infantry unit that has received orders to go to Helmand providence in Afghanistan later this fall.
As a mother, I am very aware of the sacrifices our military personnel must make to keep us free and secure. As a legislator who serves on the House Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, I am proud to support legislation that can really make a difference to veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much.
I assure you that this session, the House Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee is doing all that it can to pinpoint ways we can improve the system.
The committee has taken testimony from the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Michigan Veterans Service Organizations, American Legion, Marine Corps League, Commanders Group of Michigan, Michigan Army National Guard, Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Veterans Treatment Court, Brain Injury Association of Michigan, and National Guard Association of Michigan. We have also heard about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
We have learned that the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is focusing on four main areas for action over the next few years. These include making universities more veteran friendly and accessible, providing services for mental trauma such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, managing drug and substance abuse by veterans, and veterans courts.
The committee is also looking into several laws that would affect veterans and their families, including legislation to prohibit disorderly conduct at military funerals, grant an honorary high school diploma to veterans who did not graduate but joined the armed forces during the Vietnam War, create a Patriot Week in Michigan, amend the definition of veterans in Michigan to include Cold War veterans, and allow a person designated by a deceased serviceman or servicewoman to make funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition, or disinterment the deceased’s body.
As we take testimony on these issues to learn more about each items’ pros and cons, I am very grateful for the chance to learn more about veterans and active soldiers in our state, and the organizations and family members who support them. Our goal is to help and honor as many veterans and current soldiers as possible. Because of them, we live in a country that is a shining beacon of hope.
If you or someone you know is a veteran with questions about the state’s programs and assistance, please call my office for more information. We would be honored to direct you in the right direction.
To all service members, veterans and veterans’ families reading this column, I say thank you, and urge others to do the same. The life all veterans have led has brought us continued freedom. We must always remember the people who have fought and died for our country, to remember, and be grateful for, what they endured for us.
I look forward to hearing your comments on these important issues. Please feel free to contact me by calling (888) 373-0078 or firstname.lastname@example.org.