What will you be doing on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month? My plans for that day are reflection. The 11th day of November is set aside every year as Veterans Day to pay our respects to not only veterans who are no longer with us, but also brave men and women, past and present, who have served and continue to serve the United States of America. There are several events honoring Veterans Day in our community, as well as many places here in Kentucky that allow us to reflect on what Veterans Day truly means.
In the heart of the state there are a couple of military museums that I highly recommend visiting. The Pennyroyal Museum of History in Hopkinsville contains a collection of Fort Campbell memorabilia that highlights that historic post, including its role as home to the 101st Airborne Division. Fort Knox houses the Patton Museum where you can view the history of the United States Army and one of its greatest commanders, General George S. Patton. Just up the road, Frankfort is home to the Kentucky Military History Museum. Operated by the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Department for Military Affairs, the museum welcomes visitors to explore the rich history of Kentucky at war. From the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War and beyond, the museum is yet another way to reflect on what the veteran has faced and continues to face over the years.
In the southern part of the state, you can visit Mill Springs National Cemetery. Located in Pulaski County, it is the final resting place for so many of our veterans and their spouses. The national cemetery, with its backdrop of the Battle of Mill Springs is an opportunity to step back in time to honor veterans spanning much of our nation’s history. Veterans from the Civil War to as recent as the War on Terror are buried in this solemn location which, thanks to President Trump signing the Natural Resources Management Act, will be honored as a part of our National Parks Service.
Whether you are visiting one of the state’s eight national cemeteries, or state cemeteries like the ones in Hopkinsville, Hyden, Radcliff, Williamstown or Greenup County a stroll through any of these locations throughout Kentucky allows you to reflect on so many that have served this great nation. Reflection, however, is only as good as what becomes of it. Remembering ghosts of the past only matters when we help those who come back from war as they deal with ghosts of their own.
We can never do enough to recognize the sacrifices our veterans made and continue to make here and on battle fields around the world. However, I am pleased with action we as a legislature have taken to provide more economic and educational opportunities for our veterans. All of these bills were the result of work done by the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, which was created specifically to address these issues.
Several bills recently ushered into law will make it easier for retiring military members to transition to civilian life or active duty service at a post in our Commonwealth. HB 356 ensures that military college students retain Kentucky resident status even in the event they are transferred or are required to move out of state. This means that they will always pay a more affordable, in-state tuition rate and applies to dependents who are using the GI bill to pay for college.
Military families can now pre-enroll their children in public elementary, middle and high schools before they move here. Military children often miss the enrollment period since reassignments are often released during the summer,. HB 399 will help relieve some of the stress associated with reassignments and help our schools by providing a more accurate picture of enrollment.
Making it easier to gain employment is another way we provide more economic opportunity to our military families this session. That is why we approved HB 323, which allows for reciprocal licensure for military spouses who are seeking employment. For example, if someone has a dental hygiene license in good standing from Virginia, the license would also apply in Kentucky.
We also passed HB 338 during this year’s session. This bill eliminates the requirement that a veteran or veteran’s spouse take the state’s civil service entrance exam when applying for a state job. Of course, they must still meet all the other requirements, but eliminating this piece of red tape is a step in the right direction.
I also joined colleagues in passing legislation to create a Green Alert designation to be used within the Golden Alert System. This will give first responders and family another tool when trying to locate and assist a missing veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or is otherwise at-risk. While often difficult to talk about, a significant number of veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues associated with their service, and this is another simple step that expands the use of a system we know works.
These are just a few examples of legislation that the legislature has passed to provide a simple, common sense approach to making the lives of our veterans better.
Please contact me with your thoughts and ideas on these and other topics we may address during the 2020 legislative session. I can be reached at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Phillip.Pratt@lrc.ky.gov.
Phillip Pratt represents the 62nd House District.