Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tarryl Clark's Veterans Day Email

No spin here...just the facts.
Veterans’ Day isn’t just another day on the calendar for me. It’s central to who I am, and why I’m in public life.

I was born on the Naval Station at Norfolk, Virginia, while my father was serving in the United States Navy. He was at sea for weeks and months at a time; in fact, he was at sea when my brother, Scott, was born – the news of Scott's birth reached him aboard the ship while near Norway. He returned home, only to be deployed just two days later to take part in President Kennedy’s naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

My parents raised my brothers and me with a clear sense of duty, responsibility, and commitment to service. My brothers, Drew and Jeff, went on to join the Navy; Drew serving across Europe, and Jeff as a sea rescue swimmer stationed in San Diego, CA. I spent my career working in a different kind of public service – starting in community non-profits like Habitat for Humanity and the YWCA.

When I was elected to the State Senate just a few years ago, I made working for Minnesota’s veterans one of my top priorities.

I co-authored a new law providing leaves of absence for family of service members seriously injured or killed, as well as income tax subtraction for military pensions. I helped expand the GI Bill, co-authoring legislation to include access to graduate school and specify a minimum award. I helped write the law providing counseling services for returning soldiers. And I authored legislation allowing veterans to declare their veterans status on their driver’s license or state-issued ID.

It’s not everything we can do. But it’s a start. And this week is a good time to remember that we need to do more.

On Sunday, I was honored to join other military families, veterans and civilians to march in our Saint Cloud-area Veterans parade. I was able to visit with hundreds of people – WWII veterans and their grandchildren, Iraq vets and their young families, and even with National Guard soldiers currently in Basra via live-feed. It was a truly moving experience to see our community come together to honor those who have served our country, and are serving now.

I marched in the parade with the members of Warrior to Citizen – a coalition we’ve formed to support returning veterans and their families, and assist them in putting their new skills and experience to work in our communities.

Warrior to Citizen, along with efforts like Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, are ground-breaking efforts initiated right here in Minnesota. Its homegrown leadership we can take to the national level, as we continue our efforts to ensure our veterans are treated with dignity, respect, and the support they need when they return from their service.

A few weeks ago, an unexpected package arrived on my doorstep. Inside was an American flag, sent by Minnesota National Guard soldiers currently serving in Basra.

The flag is proudly displayed in my home, and every day I take a moment to think about those soldiers who sent it to me, and how I’m grateful for their service to our nation.

And when they return from duty, it’s our turn to serve them.

So for my Dad, my brothers, the Guard soldiers in Basra, and the millions of Americans like them who have served our nation, I hope you will take a moment today to honor our Veterans.


Tarryl Clark

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