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As you know, the General Assembly is in recess until Feb. 5, but during this time we are busy preparing for and attending committee meetings, reviewing bills, and meeting with constituents in our districts.
As a former member of the Army Reserves, I am honored to serve as the Chair of the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee. This committee works to oversee veterans rights, benefits and education; veterans' nursing homes; military affairs and civil defense; national guard; retention of military bases; safety of citizens and security of public buildings and property; and military memorials and cemeteries.
Over this past interim, members of the Joint Committee of Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection prepared for the 2013 Session of the General Assembly by hearing from experts on a wide range of topics from employment initiatives and work skills training for veterans to public protection issues like heavy search and rescue programs.
All of us are concerned about the unemployment rate overall, and in particular, among the young men and women, ages 22 – 24, who have risked their lives to protect us and now are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to face an unemployment rate more than three times that of non-veterans in the same age range. For that reason, I was pleased to learn more about “Hiring Kentucky’s Heroes,” a new initiative of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans find employment after returning home from service.
Committee members were briefed on the “Wounded Warrior Initiative,” where the Louisville Veterans Medical Center is partnering with Fort Knox to help disabled soldiers who are waiting for medical decisions as to whether they are able to go back to the military or be discharged to get acclimated to society and potential jobs.
Kentucky is honored to have brave military men and women, law enforcement personnel and firefighters serve us in selfless and heroic ways each and every day, and their training is critical to their ability to carry out their duties to protect us. We heard from the Kentucky Department of Homeland Security about federal grant funding for heavy search and rescue programs. While our state has two of these programs, one in Lexington and one in Louisville, current response times from Louisville and Lexington throughout the state may not be adequate. We saw the critical importance of these heavy search and rescue programs last spring in the aftermath of the devastating tornados that hit West Liberty with both teams responding to search collapsed buildings and rescue citizens.
I’ll keep you informed on the work of this committee and others this session. Your input is invaluable, so please call me in Frankfort toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or my home at 270-692-6945 if you have any questions, concerns, or comments.