Parker: Standing up for Texas veterans

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State Rep. Tan Parker

As our calendars turn to the month of November, we are reminded that the season of Thanksgiving and gratitude has arrived. I cannot think of a more fitting start to this time of year than Veterans Day, a time when we honor those who have served our great nation. Every November 11th since 1938, Americans have cherished this time of reflection and remembrance of the selfless sacrifices of our veterans that have enabled us to live in a free and democratic society.

While our thankfulness for veterans should be at the forefront of our thoughts every day, it is on this national holiday that we pause as a nation to pay tribute to their sacrifices, courage, hope, and endless love of country. There are countless ways to keep veterans at the forefront of your gratitude, and I prayerfully hope our country never wavers in its appreciation for every brave man and woman who has served.

Ronald Reagan spoke wisely when he said, “freedom isn’t free…”  One of the greatest costs is the tremendous burden far too many soldiers bear that is not eased when they return from active duty. Tragically, many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide rates in veterans are more than double the rate of the civilian population. Therefore, we cannot simply just express our gratitude and celebrate our veterans nor can we depend on a simple holiday to reward their service. Instead, it is imperative that we continually increase our commitment to ensuring there are services and support systems in place to assist those who have so bravely served us.

Denton County has one of the largest veteran populations in our state. As such, our county has a specific court to provide a pathway within the criminal justice system to get combat veterans’ lives back on track. There are also many wonderful community organizations who have made it their mission to support our local American heroes.

One example is the Mullins Transitional Home for Female Veterans that officially opened in September. Women veterans currently make up 15% of our active military, but are also the fastest-growing homeless population in America. Thankfully, Green Extreme Homes CDC and Women Veterans of America – Denton saw the need for this transitional home and made it a reality. In addition to housing, social services like financial coaching, counseling, educational, and job development programs are also provided. I was honored to join them for the official ribbon cutting and the opening of a new promise of hope.

Historically, Texas is the second most populous state for veterans. Providing veterans with the resources they need remains a critical priority for me as a state lawmaker. During the 86th Legislative Session, the Texas Veterans Commission was provided with an additional $7 million in general revenue to meet the increasing demand for veteran’s assistance in underserved areas, expanding both the Women Veterans Program and the Veteran Entrepreneur Program, and providing more funding for Veterans Treatment Court grants. Additionally, the Supreme Court’s Basic Civil Legal Services program received an extra $6 million in general revenue for veterans.

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be extremely difficult for veterans, and in order to reduce Texas’ veteran underemployment rate, the legislature passed HB 696 to provide greater access to services and assistance programs. The bill codified into statute two programs managed by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC): The Operation Welcome Home program and Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP).

House Concurrent Resolution 148 promotes the expansion of treatment and prevention services in the private sector for veterans experiencing PTSD, and designates June as Veteran Suicide and PTSD Awareness month.

Despite these legislative actions, there is still much to be addressed. Until access to healthcare for veterans improves, the rate of homelessness and suicide rates decrease, and we have more veterans stable than in crisis, I assure you that the work will continue.

This Veterans Day, I hope that you will join my family and me in honoring our past and present war heroes in Denton County. Here are just a few events:

Friday, November 8, 11 a.m.: The Highland Village Business Association (HVBA) Salute Our Veterans Luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn. Free for veterans (plus one guest) and $20 for non-veterans. Visit www.thehvba.com.

Friday, November 8, 9 a.m.: The Town of Flower Mound’s sixth annual Veterans Day Relay Run at the Community Activity Center and post-run celebration honoring our nation’s veterans and relay participants. Visit www.flower-mound.com.

It is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives, and I always welcome your thoughts at 512.463.0688 or email [email protected].

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