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Call to support U.S. veterans

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By Stephanie Garcia Richard

As some of you may know, I am a proud daughter of a World War II Veteran. My father’s service overseas and later back home helped shape my siblings and me. My Dad made sure I understood the value in dedicating one’s life to service, to protect and respect the rights of all Americans. My father and the millions of other men and women who willingly sacrifice for our rights are a driving force behind my determination to be a voice for the people in public office. 

One of the things I enjoy most about being a state representative are the opportunities to recognize and honor individuals who make New Mexico and this country a better place to live. This past week, I was privileged to participate in the Los Alamos Veterans Day Ceremony at the VFW and a dinner at the American Legion honoring the Boys and Girls State sponsors and students. There was a resounding message I took away from each of these events, we must do more for our youth who feel called to serve our country, and treat every day as Veterans Day.

During the 2012 legislative session, the New Mexico State House made numerous attempts to pass legislation that would benefit our veterans. I was proud to support bills that would have addressed ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment needs for veterans and make it easier for businesses owned by veterans to do business with the State. While none argue that these attempts were noble, they were not passed through the Senate, nor did they go far enough to address additional issues facing our veterans.

Along with the needs for the New Mexico legislature to pass legislation supporting jobs and healthcare needs of veterans, it is time we honor our veterans by aiding in the building of a Fisher House. After 12 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, New Mexico has a number of returning service men and women in need of ongoing medical services at our Veterans Affairs hospital in Albuquerque, but no facility for their families.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Fisher House Foundation, it is a network of “comfort homes” located near military and VA medical centers. These facilities provide a comfortable place for families of injured and ill veterans to stay while their loved ones are receiving treatment. Each house can accommodate a minimum of eight families who have private rooms but share a common kitchen and living spaces. Most importantly, there is no fee to stay in a Fisher House. Think Ronald McDonald House, but for our veterans’ families.

This legislative session, I am calling on all my fellow members to donate a portion of their capital outlay to the building of a New Mexico Fisher House and will sponsor legislation until the funding is granted. Our veterans and their families deserve a space they can utilize when visiting the VA hospital. 

One piece of legislation the House and Senate agreed upon and successfully passed was House Bill 51, a bill that would have given students an elective credit toward their graduation requirements for participating in approved summer civics course. HB 51 was the brainchild of our former Representative and County Councilor, Vernon Kerr, who lobbied tirelessly for students who participated in the Boys and Girls State Summer program to receive an elective credit. Despite HB 51’s bipartisan support, Governor Susana Martinez pocket vetoed the bill. This bill, along with many others, will remain at the forefront of bills I help reintroduce and fight for until they are passed.

I want to personally thank the American Legion Post 90, VFW Post 8874, the Los Alamos High School NJROTC, Elks Lodge 2083, Knights of Columbus Assembly 0688, the Military Order of the World War Chapter 229, Los Alamos Auxiliary Fire Brigade, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Valle Grande Chapter and the Boys and Girl Scouts of America troops, New Mexico Boys State, New Mexico Girls State, Beta Sigma Phi City Council, Zia Credit Union and the Los Alamos Kiwanis Club for graciously allowing me to be a part of their events throughout this last week.
If you have an issue you believe could be addressed at the state level to support our veterans and their families, call me at 500-4343, or by email at Stephanie.GarciaRichard@nmlegis.gov.

Together, we can make everyday Veterans Day and I thank all residents of House District 43 for giving me the opportunity to have a platform to fight for our heroes.