By Sen. Karla Bigham, Senate District 54
As the daughter of a sailor and the granddaughter of a soldier, it is my honor to thank each and every individual who has served in our armed forces and made sacrifices to protect our freedoms. America is the greatest nation in history because of brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way to preserve our exceptional way of life. Our service members past and present are heroes in the truest sense possible.
In observance of this year's Veterans Day and the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, I attended multiple ceremonies and events in our area, including a visit with my dad to my alma mater Park High School for the AFROTC Wolf Pack Cadets' 12th annual Veterans Day ceremony. I want to thank our fantastic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar for providing thoughtful remarks. I also had an opportunity to listen to the Red Bull Band from the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Infantry Division at Hastings Middle School, speak with veterans at the Hastings American Legion and watch a presentation of the colors by representatives of each branch of the military at Hastings High School.
In my role as your state senator, I serve on the Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee. I am grateful for the opportunity to facilitate public hearings that give our service members an opportunity to shape state budget and policy that impacts their livelihoods. Earlier this year, the Legislature put partisanship aside to increase public investment in Minnesota's veterans. For example, my colleagues and I dedicated $9 million for capital improvements at veterans homes, including our facilities here in Hastings. Those dollars will go towards keeping buildings safe, sturdy and dependable for current and future generations of Minnesotans who serve our country.
In addition to new investments in existing facilities, lawmakers set aside $32 million for the construction of three new veterans' homes in areas of our state where access remains a challenge. It is important that we are doing everything possible as a state government to ensure equitable access to care and services, regardless of your zip code.
If you want to learn more about what your state government is doing to support those who have served, visit the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs' website at www.mn.gov/mdva. MDVA sends monthly newsletters; produces radio and video content; publishes official reports and statistics; and offers a wide array of information about state resources as it relates to employment, health care and more. You can also check out MDVA on Twitter at @MNveteran and Facebook at www.facebook.com/minnesotadepartmentofveteransaffairs.
I look forward to sharing updates about my work to support and honor past and present servicemembers when the 2019 legislative session begins in January. Governor-elect Tim Walz, who is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, will be a wonderful partner to work with and a strong champion for Minnesota's veterans.