Who remembers the Vietnam War? Being in the military at that time was not very popular. When I learned I had earned an ROTC scholarship, I distinctly remember at a high school dance my girlfriend asking me why I wanted to join the military and be a “baby killer.” Wow. As I explained to her, I had no intention of killing babies, but I saw the Navy as a way to pay for college so I could become a naval architect.
As a country we have learned a lot, and greatly improved how we treat our veterans since Vietnam. In the 1970s, if you wore a military uniform you might get spit upon, today, people intentionally come up to our men and women in uniform and thank them for their service. Most of our country has recognized that we need to extend our thanks and gratitude to all who serve others–often while putting their lives at risk–including law enforcement officers, and fire and emergency medical personnel, to name a few.
Another major difference from the 1970s to today is our military’s reliance upon the Reserves and our National Guard. In the 1970s, joining the Reserves was pretty much a guaranteed paycheck with little risk of ever being “called up.” If you join a Reserve or Guard unit today, and you stay for any significant length of time, you can almost guarantee that you will be activated for one, or more, extended deployments eventually.
West Virginia has improved—a lot—when it comes to supporting our veterans. Compared to only a few years ago when we were ranked #35 by WalletHub for military retirees in 2018, West Virginia has moved up to #17 as of last year (Source https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-military-retirees/3915 ). I spent a career on active duty in uniform, but as I have learned first-hand through my reservist son, we treat our military veterans differently if they are (were) a reservist. West Virginia is on the right path in the way we treat our veterans and their families, but there remains more that we can do. I want to help make that happen from the House of Delegates. Until such time that there are no homeless veterans and no veteran is denied treatment for medical conditions that happened as a result of their service, we need to do more.