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Appreciate and support those who sacrificed for our freedom and



As Americans observed Veterans Day on Tuesday, we were reminded only

too vividly of the tragedy and heartache of war. The news out of Iraq


has been grim, and our community mourns the death of local soldiers

like Lt. Todd Bryant, who graduated from La Canada High School and

was killed just days ago in a car explosion outside of Baghdad, or

Marine Lance Cpl. Donald John Cline Jr., a 21-year-old former La


Crescenta resident who died in March during combat in Iraq.

While I recognize that many Californians have differing views of

the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, I would hope that all

Californians can agree that Nov. 11 is a day to reflect on what we

can and must do to help all of our veterans -- whether they served in

World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm or in Afghanistan and


California is home to the nation’s largest veteran population,


with some 3.3 million former armed services personnel living within

the state’s boundaries. Veterans make up 20% of our total state

population, while nationally, California is home to more than 12% of

the country’s veterans.

Our veterans often have unique difficulties. Prolonged deployment

causes personal and financial hardships for soldiers and their

families. Upon returning from war, veterans are expected to rebuild

the lives they left behind, reenter the job force and adjust to


civilian society again. Veterans go through all this, sacrificing

their own personal safety and well-being, to protect ours.

Changing U.S. policy has created new problems for today’s veterans

and their families. The role of reservists is shifting from short

tours of duty to longer, more frequent time commitments. These

unexpected longer tours of duty are causing personal and financial

hardship. Recently, the U.S. has relied much more heavily on

reservists in places like Korea, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, reservists receive fewer benefits than their active-duty

counterparts, especially health-care benefits. Reservists receive

health care from the federal government only when deployed into

active duty, unlike their counterparts.

In addition, the Bush administration’s new tiered health-care

rules will result in thousands of veterans losing their health-care

benefits. The administration’s failure to adjust the Department of

Veterans’ Affairs budget to keep up with burgeoning demands has

already resulted in reduced services and longer waits for existing

services. If we are going to maintain the world’s greatest military

force, we must ensure that those brave enough to enlist to defend

this nation are provided basic health services. We should all urge

President Bush and Congress to revisit this issue.

Here in California, with a growing number of National Guard troops

being called up, the Legislature this year passed legislation to

provide up to $11,000 in loan repayment assistance for those members

attending California colleges. Guard members called to duty are also

allowed to take academic leave without adverse effect on their

records. Currently, 47 other states offer this benefit to their

National Guard members. The Legislature also passed AB 1036 to ease

the rules for financing home improvements and to increase the amount

of money a veteran can take out with a Cal-Vet loan for their homes.

But the state and federal government are not the only forces that

can make significant efforts to help veterans. Locally, we as

citizens can and should do more. We can reach out to our soldiers

overseas through local programs like Hands Across the Battlefield.

Founded by Vietnam veteran Mark Cutter of Burbank and managed by

Vietnam veteran Mickey Depallo, Hands Across the Battlefield ships

nine tons of needed supplies a year to our soldiers overseas. I am

proud that my office has been able to contribute to this important

program for the past two years. This program can always use

volunteers and contributions of durable goods. For more information,

call (818) 238-5390 or write Hands Across the Battlefield at Verdugo

Recreation Center, 3201 W. Verdugo Ave., Burbank 91505.

Veterans need and deserve our appreciation and recognition more

than just one day a year. Supporting them means working year-round to

help them lead successful lives long after their official service to

our country has ended. In these turbulent times, ensuring the

well-being of veterans and their families provides us with an

opportunity to come together as communities, and as a nation, to

honor the great sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made.

* ASSEMBLYMAN DARIO FROMMER represents the 43rd District, which

includes Burbank. He can be reached via his Web site at /members/a43/ or call his Glendale

district office at 240-6330.