Will Ainsworth: Alabama must do more to thank its military veterans

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Will AinsworthThe Bible verse Isaiah 6:8 reads – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Those words from the holiest of books have always prompted me to think of the men and women who have so selflessly served in the United States military and defended the greatest of all nations.

Military service is a deep commitment that demands a great deal of sacrifice from the soldiers who serve and the family members who support them.  Everyone who wears our country’s uniform deserves our respect, honor, and appreciation, and those warm feelings continue even after that uniform is removed and hung in a closet.

Since joining the Alabama Legislature in 2014, I have placed a deep focus on serving the needs of Alabama’s military veterans, and that commitment will continue if I am elected lieutenant governor.

Most recently, I worked with State Rep. Dickie Drake (R – Leeds) and members of the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to pass the Parks for Patriots Act, which provides free, year-round admission to all Alabama state parks for active military personnel and veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves.

I also joined with State Rep. Barry Moore (R – Enterprise) to pass legislation that makes it a crime for those who do not qualify to park in spaces specifically reserved for Purple Heart and medal of valor recipients, former prisoners of war, or other military veterans.

More and more businesses are setting aside special parking spaces reserved for military veterans who were wounded, taken prisoner, or presented a medal for valor in defense of our country.  It is unconscionable to think that someone who does not fall under these categories would park in a space reserved for our nation’s heroes, but it happens quite often.  This new law will ensure that those who display such blatant disrespect will be punished appropriately.

My Republican colleagues and I have also approved the Veterans Employment Act, which provides tax incentives to businesses that hire honorably discharged veterans who are currently unemployed.

The law ensures that the veterans covered by this incentive program would be hired for full-time jobs and earn at least $14 per hour, and because the program is modeled after the “pay as you go” method of awarding economic incentives, it will have no negative fiscal impact on the budgets.

And in order to ensure that the sacrifices and legacies of veterans of the past, present, and future are properly protected, I was proud to support the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a measure that prevents those with leftist agendas and politically correct notions from tearing down statues, monuments, and makers dedicated to our state’s rich military history.

Some may argue that the work we have accomplished is adequate, but I believe that more should still be done to properly thank our veteran heroes for their service.

That is why I plan to create the Lieutenant Governor’s Task Force on Veterans’ Needs if I am elected to serve the citizens of Alabama over the next four years.

This task force will include a cross section of career military veterans, National Guard veterans, disabled veterans, combat and homefront veterans, business leaders, educators, and other citizens.  The task force will be responsible for recommending need laws, programs, and initiatives that will ensure Alabama’s veterans and their families are skilled, educated, employed, and provided the comforts necessary to understand the thanks of a grateful state.

As lieutenant governor, I will take the most worthy recommendations of the task force to the members of the Senate and work to enact them into law.  And because the needs of veterans continue to evolve with a changing economy, emerging technologies, and shifting military responsibilities, the task force will continue to meet on an annual basis and provide new input and ideas.

George Washington, our nation’s first president and one of its greatest generals, stressed the importance of treating our veterans well when he said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

Those are wise words spoken by a great man, and I pledge to live by them as your lieutenant governor.

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Guntersville-Republican, State Rep. Will Ainsworth is a candidate for lieutenant governor. Elected to the Legislature in 2014, Ainsworth currently represents Alabama’s House District 27, which includes portions of Marshall, DeKalb, and Blount counties.

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