Legislature(2009 - 2010)BARNES 124
02/02/2010 01:00 PM House MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 274-ESTABLISHING PURPLE HEART DAY 2:31:50 PM CHAIR GATTO announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 274, "An Act establishing August 7 as Purple Heart Day." 2:32:13 PM REPRESENTATIVE BERTA GARDNER, Alaska State Legislature, thanked the four other prime sponsors on the committee for their support. In addition, she pointed out that there are members of the public, including a Purple Heart recipient, who are present in support of the bill. She then introduced Ellie Sica, a member of her staff. 2:33:29 PM ELLIE SICA, Intern, Representative Berta Gardner, Alaska State Legislature, speaking on behalf of Representative Gardner, one of the prime sponsors of HB 274, introduced the bill. The Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the U.S. armed forces who is wounded or killed in battle, and it has been awarded to approximately 1.7 million service men and women. August 7 is historically significant because on this day in 1782, General George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit to honor military enlisted men and noncommissioned officers. In 1932, the badge was reinstituted and renamed the Purple Heart. Other states currently recognize August 7 as Purple Heart Day; in fact, the Alaska State Legislature has previously supported Purple Heart related legislation and proclamations such as the Purple Heart Trail and the governor's proclamation of August 7, 2009, as Purple Heart Day. Ms. Sica explained that the intent of the proposed bill is to establish this day in perpetuity and to show that Alaska honors its citizens that have been wounded or killed in action. 2:35:42 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN pointed out that the Badge of Military Merit was established to honor enlisted men and noncommissioned officers; however, the Purple Heart can be awarded to any member of the military. REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER agreed. 2:37:11 PM TIM ARMSTRONG, Chief of Staff, Alaska Military Order of the Purple Heart, informed the committee that his organization is in favor of the bill. He said he received the Purple Heart on November 23, 1968. The Alaska Military Order of the Purple Heart has active chapters in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and Soldotna, and a chapter will open soon in Juneau. There are approximately 254 life members of the Order in Alaska including two females. He noted that the national Order is the only 100 percent combat veteran organization in the country. Mr. Armstrong related his past and present affiliations with other veterans' organizations and thanked the committee members who are in support of the bill. He stated his organization's support for establishing Purple Heart Day in perpetuity in order to recognize those deserving of this award. He said, "This is one award that nobody went out in search of." Mr. Armstrong stressed that the award began as a medal of merit that was changed to include those wounded as a result of hostile action. He noted that the majority of awardees receive the medal posthumously and unfortunately, the number of awardees is growing. 2:41:48 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN thanked Mr. Armstrong for his service. MR. ARMSTRONG reviewed how he came to be a recipient of the Purple Heart. 2:45:01 PM VERDIE BOWEN, Director, Office of Veteran Affairs, Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs, verified that Alaska honors its military; in fact, the passage of HB 274 would be one more way to show veterans that Alaska cares about them. He recalled the dedication of the Purple Heart Trail in Alaska and noted that the majority of the state's Purple Heart recipients are Vietnam veterans. 2:46:37 PM MAJOR WILLIAM ALLEN, Commander, U. S. Marine Corps, said that he had eight encounters with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq. 2:47:03 PM CHAIR GATTO described his feelings when he drove by the Purple Heart Trail sign in Tok. 2:47:26 PM MAJOR ALLEN expressed his belief that, as a Purple Heart recipient, his reception in Alaska was like no other Marine community as he was welcomed and given an opportunity to tell his story. The designation of this date does more than honor Purple Heart recipients, but also recognizes those who may return with injuries suffered due to training and noncombat injuries, or from injuries that remain internalized. He advised that suffering also extends beyond the service member and affects family members, who are the "home front warriors." Major Allen concluded that the bill is a symbol for the heroic young men and women who have served and have been injured, as well as those with lesser injuries, and the families at home who suffer the "injuries of absence." 2:49:19 PM REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS thanked Major Allen for his service and his work done on behalf of veterans, reservists, and service members on active duty. 2:50:27 PM MR. BOWEN opined the most important aspect of the bill is to demonstrate support for the veteran and his or her family, as do the Purple Heart Trail markers. 2:52:02 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN moved to report HB 274 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 274 was reported from the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs.