Jeremy Alford

Legislative taps and well-deserved pay

by Jeremy Alford

Communities around the state are looking for various ways to further honor Louisiana’s soldiers. The town of Franklin, for one, was fortunate enough to land $15,000 in the state’s operating budget for the next fiscal year to update its war monument. Every dollar of that earmark serves as a sober reminder that Louisiana has lost at least 111 soldiers to conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since the 9/11 attacks.

Earlier this month, the Senate closed its doors to maintain a solemn decorum as 13 fallen servicemen were honored. Sen. Rob Marionneaux, a Democrat from Grosse Tete, has led the annual “Military Family Day” since 2005, reading from the floor individual resolutions that honor the lives and accomplishments of those lost. Army Sgt. Joseph A. Richard III, a UL public affairs student from Ville Platte, was among the names. At the age of 27, he died on April 14 in Baghdad after his unit’s vehicle was hit by a roadside explosive device. His story is told in detail in Senate Resolution 60 by Sen. Eric LaFleur, a Ville Platte Democrat, and will remain a record of the Louisiana Legislature for future generations.

Lawmakers, however, didn’t confine themselves to condolence resolutions this session when it came to addressing war veterans. GOP Rep. Jane Smith of Bossier City pushed through House Concurrent Resolution 105, which possibly sets the Legislature up to adopt a bonus-pay program for veterans in 2009. It requests the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Affairs Commission to study and make recommendations regarding an “Afghanistan, Iraq, Global War on Terror Bonus.”  The state of Louisiana has a long, honored tradition of establishing bonus payments to veterans for honorable service to the United States during wartime, dating back to World War II, and Smith wants to re-establish such a fund next year.