For many Hoosiers, Memorial Day weekend is one of the first opportunities to enjoy the beginning of summer. Some may invite family and friends over for a backyard cook-out while others enjoy the weekend at one of Indiana’s many state parks.
As we participate in these activities, which are so central to the American way of life, it is important to remember the real reason why Memorial Day is a national holiday. It isn’t so that people can have a day off work, or just an excuse to dust off the old grill; it is a day to remember the men and women who have fought to make all of this possible, our men and women in uniform.
In honor of Memorial Day, I want to highlight what we are doing here in Indiana to make life a little easier for our veterans when they return home. This session, we passed House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1242 to ensure that Hoosier veterans are not discriminated against because of their status as a veteran when seeking employment. It may seem hard to believe that any company would do that, but it does happen.
National Guardsmen also find themselves in similar situations, as employers are reluctant to hire an individual who could be deployed at any time. Our family business has always been proud to hire active-duty National Guard members.
Looking for employment, particularly when you have a family at home depending on you, can be very stressful. This can be even more difficult when you know that the odds are stacked against you. In an effort to help our veterans and reduce their unemployment rate, HEA 1242 makes it illegal for an employer to use discriminatory hiring practices against them.
We also passed Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 352 to help military families that are in need. This legislation increases the timeframe in which veterans can receive support from the Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF).
This fund provides grants that may be used for needs such as food, housing, utilities, medical services, transportation and other essential family expenses. As a result of this change, approximately 26, 000 post-911 veterans will be eligible to apply for assistance through the MFRF.
Those who have never received support from the fund will be given preference, and the Indiana Veterans’ Affairs Commission must set a maximum amount that can be given each year. This will allow the fund’s current balance of over $7 million to be used to support our well-deserving Hoosier veterans and their families while also maintaining the fiscal integrity which has made Indiana the envy of the nation.
While this provides a glimpse at two of the new laws we passed this session, I take great pride in honoring our veterans outside of the legislature as well. Last Sunday, I kicked off the holiday one week early by participating in the Patriot Guard Riders Memorial Service Program when they made their Southwest Indiana stops in Dubois and Celestine. This program is for veterans who have lost their lives in service to our country, and as part of the program, I played taps, which if you aren’t familiar, is a musical piece, often on a trumpet, which is used at U.S military funerals.
On Memorial Day, I will also be participating in the Winslow American Legion Memorial Service, playing taps there as well. But this time, I will be joined by my daughter, and we will play an echo taps. This is an excellent way to combine our family’s love of music with our deep-seated appreciation for those who serve our country. I look forward to this opportunity to honor our veterans, and I hope that you will join me this Memorial Day, in honoring them as well.