The start of a new year brings with it a time to reflect on the past year’s highlights and accomplishments, and boy did 2013 have its share of those! As I look back, there are a few moments that stick out to me, and today, I want to share those experiences with you.
During the 2013 legislative session, I had the distinct honor of presenting Mr. James Pendleton of Madison, Ind. with a resolution honoring his service in World War II. Pendleton is one of the few soldiers that survived the Battle of the Bulge. This battle took place in the Ardennes area of Belgium just before Christmas of 1944.
The German soldiers began a surprise offensive on the region to regain ground close to the German border. This offensive caught the Allied forces by surprise, but Mr. Pendleton and the rest of his platoon tried to hold the line against the Germans for several days. After a night of traveling through the region, his platoon found an abandoned farming village which seemed to offer refuge for the time being.
Once the group of Allied soldiers fell asleep, Pendleton heard something outside of the house. He knew immediately that the sounds were from German tanks. The group succeeded in destroying a few of the tanks but was still gravely outnumbered by the German troops. While attempting a breakaway, the Jeep Pendleton was in experienced a heavy dose of enemy fire. Pendleton later counted about 15 grazed burns on his chest from bullets which narrowly missed him. Pendleton was also shot in his right forearm.
It has been reported that this area was the final stage for the battles which helped to end the Allies’ effort in Europe. The type of heroism displayed by men like Jim Pendleton is what ultimately led to our country’s victory, and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to have met this man and heard of his trials and tribulations.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I was proudly able to honor another hometown hero, Private Kassandra Woodward of Vevay. Pvt. Woodward is one of just 13 women to have ever graduated from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Program. I was able to present her with a certificate of recognition as well as an American flag that had been flown over the Statehouse in Indianapolis. This of course is just a very small token of our appreciation.
Until 2013, the Marine Corps’ Infantry Training was only open to men. This training program is a 59-day course which includes a Combat Fitness Test consisting of carrying 90 pounds of combat gear on a 12.5 mile march. Women must complete the same physical tasks as men participating in the program, including the completion of at least 3 pull-ups. Kassandra and her colleagues are making the strides necessary to open up more doors for women when it comes to ground combat jobs.
It is not very often that one gets an opportunity to truly say thank you for a stranger’s distinctive service. It is even rarer to have the opportunity to do so twice in the same year. As a state representative, I can honestly say that these opportunities are the most rewarding part of my job.
In the coming year, I resolve to continue to use my position as a means to honor those amongst our society whom deserve it the most. Whether by fighting in the armed forces for the freedom of democracy or by simply reaching out to me to share your thoughts and ideas on the most pressing issues facing our state, my job would not be possible without you. That is a thought I have carried with me in all that I have done during my time in the legislature and will continue to do throughout 2014.