Ah, the signs that summer is approaching. school kids (and their teachers) are getting antsy to escape, graduates can't wait to parade across that stage in those caps and gowns, and you find yourself mowing twice a week just to keep up with the neighbors' perfectly manicured lawn.
But more importantly, the official kickoff of summer provides a "time out" for remembering and thanking our veterans: Memorial Day. This week I'll be participating in the May 14 memorial service in Washington, and on May 31, the memorial service in Winslow.
This year, the House of Representatives passed several bills with veterans in mind.
One protects a veterans' service-connected disability benefit from debt collectors. This one was a unanimous vote in the Indiana House. As a whole, the chamber felt that this benefit should not be considered income, but rather compensation for what the veteran lost during his or her service in the military.
Hoosier veterans with disabilities, who have already sacrificed so much for their country, should not have to worry about their benefits being taken away by debt collectors.
Another bill that passed unanimously requires National Guard members to complete their "Post-Deployment Health Reassessments" face to face in the form of a clinical interview, rather than over the phone. It's imperative that National Guard members returning from conflict should receive proper physical and psychological evaluation.
While these bills will help veterans who have already returned home to their families, many of our men and women in uniform are still serving around the globe, and it's often difficult to get in touch with those they miss so much.
Mother's Day was a great reminder of these self-sacrificing family members. This week, I'd like to encourage you to take advantage of a great opportunity to help those serving in our military connect with loved ones.
The United Service Organizations (USO) is sponsoring a program called "More Minutes for Mom," providing our troops with free minutes to make phone calls. Your donations allow a solider to make a free phone call to his or her family - something you and I might take for granted, but can be a mental and emotional lifeline for those supporting us in remote areas all over the world.
Since World War II, the USO has been steadfast supporter of military personnel. The organization provides programs and services to millions of active duty service members, National Guard and Reserves, and their families at more than 130 centers located worldwide. Just one $15 donation will allow for 300 minutes of talk time from Afghanistan, and all donations are tax deductible. Visit http://www.uso.org/ for more information.
If you ever miss out on a Messmer Report and want to get caught up, please visit my website at www.in.gov/h63. Not only can you read the Messmer Report, you can listen to the audio file almost as soon as it is released.
Here's hoping you had a Happy Mother's Day- and that you'll have a happy Memorial Day!