Appreciate and support those who sacrificed for our freedom and

November 12, 2003



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

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