- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

As you know, we started the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program in 1981 to help our returning veterans who were underemployed or unemployed or had lingering problems associated with their Vietnam service. The concept was that our Vietnam veterans who had been through that experience were best positioned to understand the problems facing fellow veterans on a wide range of fronts.

We were a band of brothers who finally brought our Vietnam veterans home the right way, in no small part thanks to the support and leadership of President Reagan. It worked. We changed the false stereotype of Vietnam veterans and helped a lot of them all over the country. It was veteran helping veteran.

It is time we did something similar for our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

That’s why Gov. Rick Perry and I have initiated the Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP), run by returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to help their fellow veterans transition to civilian life the right way.

Directed by Jason Doran, a Marine who won the Silver Star for bravery in Iraq and wrote the book “I Am My Brother’s Keeper,” the TVLP will work with veterans all across the state of Texas to help them get the right training and good jobs. Businesses already are eager to help us, as are our the labor unions. Our goal is to help those who answered our country’s call during a difficult time. We need these young men and women to be the next generation of leaders in our society, as so many of our Vietnam veterans have been.

Sarge, you and I, along with many other Vietnam veterans, made VVLP one of the most successful government initiatives undertaken during our time in government. Hopefully, the TVLP will do the same in helping our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. If it works in Texas, perhaps it can become a national program like our initiative for Vietnam veterans. Thanks for all your help back then and for what you continue to do on behalf of all veterans.

Your friend and fellow veteran, Tom Pauken, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission.

Dear Tom:

I am looking forward to joining you and other fellow Vietnam veterans in the first week of September in assisting jarhead Jason and other veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan kick off this important initiative. I know how important it is to help this new band of brothers (and sisters) reach maximum potential as they re-integrate into civilian life. I am looking forward to seeing y´all in Texas.

Shaft Notes

Kudos to the House of Representatives for the recent passage of H.R. 6070, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, introduced by Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican. The bill allows a military spouse who moves out of the state with his or her service member because of military orders to have the option to claim the same state of domicile as his or her active-duty spouse, regardless of where the spouse is stationed. I ditto Mr. Carter’s statement:

“With Fort Hood in Texas´ 31st District, we are reminded daily of the sacrifices made by our service men and women. We owe the highest merit to these brave soldiers.

“It is also important that we recognize the sacrifices and efforts made by the spouses and families of these soldiers, and assist them in the challenges they face. The Service member´s Civil Relief Act creates a state of domicile so that as a service member moves, he or she does not change the state of residence. This is important because it allows the service member to continue voting for the same congressman, pay taxes to one state over the course of their career, and provides basic stability to the service member as they move around the country and the world on military orders.

“While we provide these benefits to those that volunteer to serve our country officially, they do not provide protection to their families who shoulder a burden just as great. It is no longer enough for Congress to provide relief to just the men and women who serve our military in an official capacity. We must broaden the scope of the original relief act and other regulations to address the needs of the military family.

“The folks at Fort Hood use the phrase, ‘We recruit a soldier, but retain a family,’ and that is exactly what my bill is aimed to do. We should allow military spouses who move out of the state with their soldier because of military orders the option to claim the same state of residency as their active-duty spouse, regardless of where they are stationed.

“In closing, in a time when retention and recruitment is so important, we must take every opportunity to remove potential disincentives to serving in our nation´s military. While you and I may not think of this as one of the most pressing issues for our service members, for these husbands and wives, it is one more stressful change they have to deal with as they help lead their families through re-stationing and deployment. The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act will stabilize the spouse´s tax base to prevent the military family from losing as much as 9.3 percent of the spouse´s income due to moving for military purposes.

“The bill also provides stability by allowing the family to continue to vote for the same elected officials, and will also allow a military spouse´s name to appear on important documents like property deeds and car titles.”

• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]

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