By Tommy Reynolds
Many things have been said about Mississippians and our willingness to help others in need. Every year when charitable giving rates are announced, we are always proud of Mississippi’s ranking at or near the top in generosity when compared to our sister states.
This strong spirit of helping may be a reason our state is also highly rated in another important area – the number of Mississippians who join our armed services and defend our freedom at home and away. Patriotism is a virtue in our state, and we in the Legislature occasionally are able to show our fellow Mississippians our appreciation for their service and sacrifice.
During the 2013 session, I co-sponsored House Bill 102, which honors wounded veterans and active duty service members by providing hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities within our state wildlife management areas and wildlife refuges. This bill allows the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to designate an area or areas or establish special seasons with the specified areas for wounded veterans and active duty service members who bear service-related injuries.
Hunting is a very important recreational activity for many Mississippians. Without special accommodations, many of our returning service men and women would be unable realize their wish to participate in the time-honored tradition.
This measure was resoundingly approved by a vote of 115-1 on final passage in the House. It becomes law July 1.
I also co-sponsored another bill intended to honor our returning service members. House Bill 1322 provided that Mississippi employers would receive a tax credit for hiring an honorably discharged veteran. This effort was the result, in part, of information provided to us that revealed many of our veterans are unemployed. We just do not believe this is acceptable, and we should do everything we can to make sure our veterans have the opportunity for a full, secure life.
Although the bill passed the House by a vote of 119-1, and the Senate unanimously, it died in conference when members could not agree on how to approach the technical application of the tax credit.
My colleagues and I intend to revisit this idea again next year. Our aim is to avoid the controversies that sank House Bill 1322 and bring forth a program that will benefit our returning service members and their families. We simply cannot ignore it when men and women who set their own lives aside to protect ours are unable to find employment in their home state.
Finally, we voted to allow the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to transfer certain real property in Leflore County to the State Veterans Affairs Board to establish a state veterans cemetery there in the area. I voted for this measure, Senate Bill 2446. I believe our veterans should have the option to share their final resting place with their brothers and sisters in arms, if they so desire. Over 285,000 are buried at Arlington Cemetery alone. Some of the most visited, beautiful and beloved cemeteries in America are dedicated to members of our armed services. I am looking forward to seeing this new state veterans cemetery become a reality.
We have recently observed Memorial Day and participated in or observed the many celebrations dedicated to remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow Ameri-cans. I believe we should remember those who died and support the veterans who are still among us every day. I hope that these modest efforts of appreciation passed by the 2013 Mississippi Legislature will help us achieve that goal. Please feel free to contact me at my local office at P.O. Drawer 280, Charleston, MS 38921, by phone at (662) 647-3203 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you on any issue that you may have.