Celebrate freedom by caring for vets
This week across Nevada, we joined our fellow Americans in celebrating the Fourth of July. Through fireworks and family barbecues, we marked this annual commemoration of America’s independence. We also paused to remember the many sacrifices made by those in the armed forces who have served this nation since its inception – something my administration strives to do each day of the year.
The Nevada Office of Veterans Services operates many programs that benefit veterans and their families. We have two memorial cemeteries, a Veterans Home in Boulder City, and a staff of dedicated workers ready to provide assistance. I am very proud of the work our employees do, whether it is at the Veterans Home, managing the cemeteries, or in the Service Officer Program. Together with Director Caleb Cage, Deputy Director Kat Miller and the Veterans Services Commission, this dedicated team does all it can to serve the approximately 243,000 veterans in Nevada.
Over the years, Nevada’s veterans memorial cemeteries have benefited from both state and federal assistance. The staff at the Office of Veterans Services are currently working to complete construction documents and planning for the next grant for the Boulder City cemetery. We hope that another $6 million to $7 million will be made available for expansion and improvements here in the vaults and casket burial section. At the same time, plans are under way to make improvements at the memorial cemetery in Fernley. Our goal is clear: We will not only keep these cemeteries as fitting memorials; we hope to make them the finest anywhere in the nation.
We will continue to do our part to honor the sacred charge, recognize the sacrifices our veterans have made, and accomplish the mission set for us as stewards of their care. Veteran-focused programs exist in many state agencies. Plans are under way to create, through executive order, an interagency council that spans Cabinet departments. We must ensure that all agencies of state government are working together on behalf of this important population.
Of course, veterans are not the only constituency from the armed forces that we honor at this time of year. Earlier this year, I signed an executive order calling on the state’s professional licensing boards to find ways to grant reciprocal licenses to the spouses of military personnel. Military spouses move from state to state more frequently than the general population, so we have joined a national effort to ease their work transitions. My executive order has received great support among the various boards, many of which had existing processes in place. The boards are telling us where there are still hurdles and we are now compiling a list of possible statutory changes to go further in the upcoming legislative session.
As commander in chief of the Nevada National Guard, I am ever mindful of those who are called into duty as we continue the war on terror. Earlier this year I attended the mobilization of two additional Nevada units. With military operations ceasing in Iraq, it’s sometimes easy to forget tens of thousands of soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who remain in harm’s way in Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world.
The deployment of the 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion in February marked the 20th major unit mobilization undertaken by the Nevada Army Guard in support of operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn since 2001. This latest generation of Nevada Army Guard Chinook helicopter aviators, flight engineers and mechanics, based in Reno, includes about 60 soldiers from Nevada and 60 from Montana. This is the same Nevada Guard unit previously known as Company D, 113th Aviation Company, which incurred five casualties on its 2005 deployment in Afghanistan.
The 593rd Transportation Company, commanded by Capt. Curtis Kolvet, is the first Nevada National Guard unit to serve in both Iraq and Afghanistan since overseas contingency operations began in 2001. Its latest assignment, which began in May, is to transport troops and dry cargo in support of Operation Enduring Freedom between the forward operating bases in the Regional Command-Capital area of Afghanistan. The unit is set to return from Afghanistan in February 2013.
This Fourth of July and throughout the year, we remember our veterans and those who serve in the armed forces. We mark their service by recalling these words of President Ronald Reagan: “Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their valor and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”
• Gov. Brian Sandoval can be reached through his website, gov.nv.gov.