This past Monday, I’m sure you had the opportunity to celebrate Memorial Day with your family, friends and loved ones.  Driving through my hometown, I was happy to see flags waving in front yards, red, white and blue bunting hanging from porches and various Memorial Day events taking place.

At the Statehouse last week, I was able to pay tribute to those brave men and women who died serving our county in the armed forces.  In a joint session, the Ohio House of Representatives, along with the Ohio Senate, helped to present the Medal of Distinction to the families of those who have lost loved ones in the military.  As a veteran myself, I understand the sacrifice it takes to serve your country and my heart goes out to these families. 

The Medal of Distinction ceremony is always a special, but very somber, event.  It was made possible by legislation passed during the 127th General Assembly, Senate Bill 248, in order to honor those Ohio service members who gave up their lives fighting for our country.  This year, we paid tribute to SPC Angel L. Lopez of Parma and SSG Sonny C. Zimmerman of Lima. 

My thoughts are with the families of these two men this week.  As many Ohioans are enjoying cookouts, ballgames and fireworks, these families are mourning their fallen hero.  They might be sharing in the festivities, but there is someone missing. 

As I think of them, I wonder about how I can be a better American.  They have sacrificed their lives, in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They are true Americans and real patriots.  How can we, as United States citizens, be better representatives of our country and honor these veterans? 

One way that the legislature is helping veterans is through legislation (House Bill 488), which would require the Board of Regents to develop standards and procedures for awarding college credit for military experience.  Veterans should be able to utilize the skills they’ve learned by receiving access to higher education, in the field of their choice.  Coming back from deployment is never easy.  It requires relearning how to live a “normal” civilian life.  This is stressful enough.  Providing the educational resources to build off of the valuable skills learned in the armed forces is imperative to our workforce and to rewarding our veterans for what they’ve achieved for our country. 

In staying on the topic of education, this time of year also means that many students are gearing up for  graduation.  I’m sure they’re excited and looking forward to beginning their future.  As they begin this next step in life, I hope that they will remember the skills they’ve learned in high school, along with being grateful for their families, teachers and friends.  Graduating, many times, is a joint effort.  It is also a huge accomplishment.  It involves a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline.  I hope these graduates will continue their momentum forward and that they succeed in accomplishing their goals.

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