"Oklahoma's sons and daughters have a proud tradition of serving our Nation in peace and in war. We must always honor their service and give unconditional support to our veterans, service members and the families that support them."
-Drew Edmondson, Veteran
Drew Edmondson on Veterans
As a veteran myself, I understand the sacrifices our veterans make when they choose to serve and the challenges they face when they return to civilian life at home. Time in a foreign country away from family and friends, devoid of the comforts of home and faced with the horrors of war is something that can not truly be understood by those who have not experienced it.
Oklahoma is home to 344,000 veterans and thousands of active duty service men and women, guardsmen and women and reservists. Oklahomans have served with pride in wartime and in times of peace. We must always honor their bravery and sacrifice in word and in deed.
As Governor, that will be my mission.
Too often, veterans, service members and their families are unaware of the resources and benefits available to them. Information about education benefits, veterans' employment help, medical services, mental health resources, family assistance services, service- connected disability claims and post-deployment transition and reintegration is available but scattered. As Governor, I will implement initiatives and programs to better streamline and consolidate these resources and provide outreach so Oklahoma's veterans know where to turn for assistance. There is simply no reason that we can't make information about all of the services available to veterans accessible in a one-stop-shop. It's a simple solution that would make a big difference in the lives of Oklahoma veterans, and we can and will make it happen.
One area where we can improve the lives of our veterans is in the availability and accessibility of higher education. Like many of Oklahoma's veterans and service members, I utilized VA education benefits to go to school. The passage of the post-9/11 GI Bill has since expanded VA education benefits. This is a great service. As Governor, I will work to ensure that information about this service is readily available to veterans on campuses across the state. By promoting education at our colleges, universities and vocational institutions, we can make higher education a ready reality for Oklahoma service men and women.
I will also work to expand programs for veterans who require treatment upon their return from active duty.
In 2008, Tulsa County launched the third veterans' treatment court in the nation and the first in Oklahoma with great success. The Tulsa Veterans Treatment Court diverts veterans charged with non-violent felonies from jail and provides them with the help they need to recover from underlying drug, alcohol or mental health problems. We owe our veterans the chance afforded by this program. As Governor, I will build on the great work done in Tulsa, and I will implement veterans' treatment courts throughout our state.
And let us not forget the families of our service men and women.
In 2008, Oklahoma ranked third in the nation in the number of guardsmen and women and reservists deployed in the War on Terror. The call for our soldiers will continue in 2011. The year I spent in Vietnam was not just difficult for me; it was also tough on my wife, Linda, and our children, Mary and Robert. I will be a Governor who recognizes the sacrifices being made by our military families, and I will make assistance programs more readily available to them, too.
These are just a few of the many initiatives I will fight for as Governor. I look forward to hearing your ideas about how we can best serve those who serve, and to working with you to making Oklahoma a place our service men and women are truly proud to protect.
Drew Edmondson enlisted in the United State Navy in 1968. He served one tour of duty in Vietnam, including one year spent at Tan Son Nhut Air Base just outside of Saigon. For his service, he was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal. He was honorably discharged in 1972.