After another divisive election cycle, it is important to remember that we continue to share the rights and freedoms that many brave men and women have fought and died to protect. As we celebrate the honor, sacrifice and commitment of our military this Veterans Day, I urge everyone to take a moment and thank those who have given so much.
Seeing both of my sons make the choice to serve our country in Iraq and Afghanistan has given me a greater appreciation for the commitment of our military, and our inherent debt to each U.S. soldier. Having recently retired after serving nearly 26 years as a Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4) in the United States Army Reserves, I understand the significance of a “thank you” and other friendly gestures that show members of the Armed Forces our appreciation. I am honored to continue to represent a community that displays such great appreciation, support and thanks to our military service members and their families.
Minnesota’s legislature has made great strides in expanding and improving our Veterans services in the last two years:
Veterans Affairs funding was increased by 2.4 percent increase in last year’s budget and Military Affairs received an 8 percent increase. We also provided $1.89 million for Higher Education Veteran Assistance Programs. The 2011/2012 bonding bills appropriated additional money for veterans’ asset preservation, nursing bed replacement, a centralized Pharmacy at the Minneapolis Veterans Home, and additions to the Camp Ripley Education Center.
To help encourage businesses to hire our former service men and women, we enacted laws to give government preference to employers who hire disabled veterans. We also sought to protect businesses, from a legal standpoint, that give preferential treatment to veterans and spouses of a deceased or permanently disabled veterans when making hiring or promotion decisions. The Minnesota GI bill was also expanded to include job training and apprenticeships for post 9/11 veterans. Another bill would have offered a tax credit to businesses that hire unemployed veterans, but unfortunately this was vetoed.
Another interesting idea that was brought forward this session was developing an alternative means of certification for veterans in their field of expertise. Many military members receive some of the best training in the world in the fields of computers, machinery, emergency response, law enforcement and more. We are currently exploring the idea of implementing a temporary waiver of certification for returning military members that allows them to work while they go through the training that their specific field requires.
Please remember to show your appreciation for our active and former military members this weekend and year round. Remember to pray for friends and family currently serving overseas. Take the time to visit with our elderly veterans. And perhaps most of all, remember to reflect on the freedoms we all share thanks to those who sacrificed so much.
Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, is currently serving his third term. He served on the Veterans Services Division, Property and Local Tax Division and as the vice-chairman of the Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee for the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions.