Every Veteran Deserves our Support

Our goal from the beginning of my term in Washington state was to ensure that we're appropriately honoring all of our veterans.
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As governor of Washington, the people I meet often humble me, especially the incredible veterans among us.

Veterans are very close to my heart, particularly the one I married. I'm blessed with a wonderful husband, Mike Gregoire. "First Mike" (he didn't like "First Gentlemen"), is a tireless advocate for our veterans.

As a Vietnam combat veteran, Mike understands veterans' issues and has first-hand knowledge of what it's like to serve in our military. As governor, I'm in a position to advocate for and ultimately sign legislation that benefits veterans. We are doing great things for veterans at the state level and working to meet the growing needs of veterans in our state.

With every new amputee and wounded veteran returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the demands on state resources to care for our heroes increase. Each veteran that returns home is a hero, and as their numbers grow, so does our responsibility to serve them.

We have 672,000 veterans in Washington raising families, caring for one another and strengthening our communities.

Washington is one of the few states where the number of veterans is increasing. Whether they serve on Whidbey Island, at Fort Lewis, Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane or at any of our other installations, I think they settle here after their service because they see first hand how we treat veterans.

It isn't always easy to push politics aside when talking about the failures of the current White House. This administration has dragged their feet on climate change, cut healthcare for children and served as a roadblock to a meaningful energy policy.

The Bush administration has also failed our veterans on a number of levels, from the terrible conditions at Walter Reed VA Hospital, to not properly equipping our soldiers when they are on the battlefield. The administration continues to place their shortfalls on the backs of individual states.

When Washington's National Guard troops were returning home from Iraq, they were forced to leave their equipment behind. This is equipment they need to train to be ready when they are called up again. I'm making sure the federal government replaces that equipment, but it is a fight.

We can disagree with the Bush administration on a multitude of issues, but regardless of what you think about the current situation in Iraq or how our men and women were rushed into a war without a plan to bring them home, we cannot disrespect veterans and active members of the military.

Sure, politicians have "supported the troops" since there have been politicians and troops for them to support, but not everyone puts their money where their mouth is. Since I became governor, I have signed 47 pieces of legislation relating to veterans and their families, the most bills signed by any governor in state history. These have helped to improve the lives of veterans and honor them.

Veterans experience a lot of challenges, whether they've been retired for years or are just leaving active duty. We recently passed legislation that expanded the property tax exemption and provides other property tax relief to more veterans and expanded the eligibility for POW license plates, letting family members of veterans purchase the plates in their honor.

Significant hardships are experienced when a family member who is a reservist is called into active duty. To help ease the burden on families the state has created a shared leave pool for state-employed military.

As a nation we cannot repeat the mistakes and neglect that greeted many of the veterans of the Vietnam War. When veterans return home from battle, they often have a difficult time returning to civilian life. Education and job training are key in helping that transition. In Washington, military spouses and their children can now attend a state college or university and receive tuition waivers.

We're also one of the first states to endorse "Helmets to Hardhats" to connect returning military veterans with apprenticeships, helping them get started on a productive career in the building and construction trades.

As Memorial Day approaches, I encourage all of you to take the time to honor our fallen veterans. Sadly more than 100 Washington men and women have died in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mike and I have tried to attend every funeral service for Washington's fallen soldiers, and we will continue our commitment to honoring these brave individuals by showing their families that we acknowledge their tragic loss.

We also need to thank the military families who are waiting for their loved one to return home from war. Their sacrifice is often overlooked.

Our goal from the beginning of my term was to ensure that we're appropriately honoring all of our veterans, whether they've long since retired or are just now returning home.

While war is no substitute for diplomacy, there are many who have served our country and now our country must serve them.

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