This past weekend, people across the nation recognized and paid tribute to the more than 24-million American veterans.

This past weekend, people across the nation recognized and paid tribute to the more than 24-million American veterans.

These men and women have fought in conflicts across the globe so that we can continue to enjoy our freedoms and liberties, and we thank them for their service. Memorial Day was first celebrated in the 1860s, when flowers were placed on the graves of soldiers who had fought in the Civil War. Over the years, this tradition was extended to honor veterans of all wars and in 1971, Congress passed legislation making the Memorial Day holiday the last Monday in May.

Ohio's military personnel, whether serving overseas or as part of the National Guard, play an important role in keeping our state and nation safe. Their service, however, often comes with sacrifices, such as long stretches of time away from their families and friends. Members of the Ohio Legislature have long recognized the valuable contributions of our veterans, passing legislation that seeks to improve their lives and that of their families while honoring their service.

Last year, the legislature approved Senate Bill 243, a bill I sponsored that created several new specialty license plates and designated various official days, weeks and months, among other provisions.

The bill included an expansion of the current veterans' license plates to include those individuals who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and created "Thank You U.S. Military" and "Support Our Troops" license plates. These new plates should be available at your local deputy registrar in the coming months.

S.B. 243 also declared 2008 the "Year of the Veteran" and designated Oct. 22 as "U.S.S. Hocking Day" in honor of the World War II attack transport ship, the navy crew who served on it and the marines who were carried into battle on it. The Hocking was named after Hocking County, Ohio, and participated in the landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Members of the Ohio Senate have also been working on veterans-related legislation during this General Assembly. Earlier this year, we approved Senate Joint Resolution 1, introduced by my colleague, Sen. Tim Grendell (R- Chesterland). I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this resolution, which authorizes the issuance of $200-million in state bonds, pending voter approval, to provide one-time bonuses of $100 per month of military service, up to $1,000 to veterans of the Persian Gulf War and the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Soldiers who served in other parts of the world during this time would be eligible for $50 for every month of service, up to $500.

In addition, Senate Joint Resolution 1 would extend a $5,000 death benefit to the families of those who are killed in the line of duty.

Providing Ohio veterans a bonus has been a tradition in Ohio since returning World War I veterans benefited from the first voter-approved constitutional amendment in 1921. In the following years, voters have overwhelmingly approved bond issues to support veterans of World War II, Korea and most recently, Vietnam.

Other bills currently in the Senate that seek to honor those in the military include Senate Bill 87, which would designate March 29 as "Vietnam War Veterans Day" in recognition of all those who fought, died or are still unaccounted for in the Vietnam War. This bill is currently in the Senate State and Local Government and Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Senate Bill 114 would declare the month of August as "Ohio Military Family Month" in recognition of the many contributions military families make to the state of Ohio and its residents. Similar legislation has already been approved by the House and is currently under consideration here in the Senate.

From World War I to today's conflicts in the Middle East, the brave men and women of our military have served with honor and valor. Although we will never be able to fully repay them for their service, members of the legislature will continue to pass legislation that recognizes the hard work and dedication of our veterans while easing the burden on them and their families.

I hope you will join me in taking a moment to remember and honor the hard work and valor of all the veterans in our state.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any of the legislation we are considering at the Statehouse. I can be reached by phone at (614) 466-5838, by e-mail at sd31@senate.state.oh.us or by writing me, State Sen. Tim Schaffer, Senate Building Room 142, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tim Schaffer represents the 31st District in the Ohio Senate.

Tim

Schaffer