FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 8, 2007
As our country continues embroiled in overseas military conflict, Veterans Day becomes even more poignant.
On a deeply personal level, I feel a mixture of pride and sadness over the loss of my Father on Sept. 4, 2006, a World War II veteran.
As a state legislator, I am proud to participate in passing laws that honor, assist and protect Texas veterans and soldiers, as well as their families.
To honor our heroes of the second war, we dedicated the beautiful Texas World War II Memorial on August 15, 2007, on the state Capitol grounds.
Part of the inscription reads: This Memorial honors the 830,000 Texans who served in the Armed Forces of the United States during World War II, the more than 22,000 who gave their lives and the millions who supported the war effort from home. The Memorial honors the spirit, sacrifice and commitment of Texans to the common defense of our nation and to the broader causes of peace and freedom throughout the world.
On Veterans Day we remember how our troops are trained in weapons and tactics, but more important are the values and ideals instilled in them. They deserve the highest of honors, but honoring those who have served or are serving without meeting their pressing needs is akin to christening a naval ship and keeping it dry docked. That is one reason the federal government must help us fund a Veterans' Hospital in South Texas.
I am also proud that the Texas Legislature added action to eloquence this past session. We enacted the Military Voting Pilot Program for the 2008 state and county general elections. This program allows a county clerk or election administrator in Texas to send a voting ballot via electronic mail to a voter outside the United States, who requests the emailed ballot after failing to receive an absentee ballot through regular mail.
Although the voter would still have to fill out a hard copy ballot and return it by mail or courier, this would cut the amount of time the ballot spends in the mail system by half. Most importantly, Texas will begin to address the 33 percent rate of disenfranchisement among military and overseas voters as revealed in a March 2006 report to Congress by the U. S. Election Assistance Commission. Senate Bill (SB) 90 makes a significant improvement in Texas law by helping address problems faced by military voters overseas, particularly those in combat zones where ballots are less likely to arrive.
We also passed other legislation--SB 1058--that will assist veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic distress. Soldiers returning from combat suffering from these traumas often experience difficulty reintegrating into family and work life. The Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council estimates that as many as 25 percent of soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts will be returning to Texas, and that many of these soldiers will be victims of traumatic brain injury.
Our legislation requires the adjutant general's department to develop a program that provides referrals to service members for reintegration services. Further, it mandates the Department of State Health Services and the Health and Human Services Commission to establish a directory of services and other resources, tools and counseling programs to aid veterans and their immediate families in the reintegration process.
Every soldier who returns home either from combat or regular duty has to reintegrate, whether into familiar or new environments. Therefore programs to assist those with the most challenges are vital to the well-being of the soldiers, their families and friends, and their communities.
Other bills we passed address employment and college tuition for military personnel. SB 311 prohibits a private employer from terminating a permanent employee who is a member of this or any other state's National Guard if the person is ordered to training or duty. And SB 685 exempts mandatory fees other than tuition to members of the Texas military forces attending college for up to 12 credit hours.
Taking care of active-duty soldiers is tantamount to establishing sound policies for our veterans of all eras and ages. This Veterans Day, let's memorialize the heroism of those who have served and departed, those who are still with us and those in service who will also join the ranks of veterans. But most of all, let's actively support their causes and issues.
Our Veterans merit our appreciation, prayers and offers of help to meet life's challenges. May God bless every veteran who calls Texas home!
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.