Working on military and veterans' issues for Governor Kulongoski remains one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. As you know, I purposefully keep that world from these writings. However, May 8, 2009 is an event that simply cannot - will not - be the same without your personal involvement and participation.
Oregon will celebrate the first "Military Families Appreciation Day" on May 8th. This day, unlike Memorial Day and Veterans' Day is dedicated to the families of all those that have served. Too often we forget the sacrifice a family must make when their loved ones answer our nation's call.
This year public recognition of that shared commitment is more important than ever. We are preparing to send nearly 3,000 men and women overseas for duty in Iraq. It is the largest mobilization of the Oregon National Guard since World War II.
To commemorate this call to service - and to recognize the sacrifice of past generations - we have put together a program of events that begin at the Oregon State Capitol and end in communities across the state.
At 0900 we will gather in Room 50 of the Capitol to discuss the progress of the legislative package recommended by the Governor's Task Force on Veterans' Services and share with our legislators and their staffs the challenges of meeting the needs of veterans and families.
At 1100 we will watch Governor Kulongoski sign priority veterans' bills into law. This will be an important moment for the 350,000 veterans in Oregon. The Governor and 2009 Legislature have established the most comprehensive strategy for veterans' in the nation. We are leading the way; our approach is guiding other states - together we are working to move the Congress to action.
After the conclusion of events at the Capitol, our focus will shift to community-based celebrations throughout Oregon. We are planning gatherings in: Bend, Canby, Coos Bay, Independence, Gresham, Klamath Falls, McMinnville, Medford, Roseburg, Springfield, and Vale. There may be events in Astoria, Grants Pass, La Grande, Portland, The Dalles, and Tigard - but we are awaiting confirmation.
Although every event will be tailored to its community, there are common threads woven throughout. Each community will provide participants with information about the impact of military service upon children; mental health access and availability; veterans employment and benefit contacts; and an overview of the Oregon Reintegration Team - and a pitch for your help in making our team stronger.
Communities are also planning a public service project - tree plantings and park clean-ups are the core of this effort. It is our hope that working together will help break down barriers and provide everyone with a shared sense of accomplishment that be the foundation of a new relationship between the community and its military families.
In most places the faith community has volunteered to organize a potluck. This opportunity for fellowship is an essential connection: a time for people to listen to each other over homemade dinner and desserts. And even though food alone cannot solve the problems of the world, it is an important component to the kind of atmosphere that may solve some of those problems.
In conclusion, May 8, 2009 promises to be something very special. We will witness the enactment of the most complex strategy for veterans' policy in Oregon since the 1950s; we will celebrate military families throughout Oregon; and we will come together and learn from each other. With your help, this will be the first of many opportunities for Oregon to prove that we still have the heart of a community.
Please visit: http://www.oregon.gov/ODVA/TASKFORCE/MILFAM.shtml for specific details about your community. Most of the information has been posted, but we should have all community events (and team leaders) on the site by COB May 1, 2009. If you want information sooner, please email me at Evansmonmouth@aol.com or give me a call at 503.949.6378.