Rep. Tom Barrett, chair of the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and the only Iraq War veteran serving in the state House, spent Veterans Day serving veterans throughout his community.
Rep. Barrett, a U.S. Army veteran, began the day at the MSU Student Veterans Breakfast at Spartan Stadium and then was the keynote speaker at the Veterans Day Observation at VOA Veterans Housing.
“As a veteran I have a great appreciation for these men and women,” said Rep. Barrett, “and I understand the importance of honoring them and thanking them, not just today but every day.
“Simply saying thank you means more than most people realize. It’s an important thing to do.”
Barrett then visited Lansing’s Advent House Ministries, where he joined other volunteers in serving lunch to veterans.
After nightfall, Rep. Barrett joined volunteers with Homeless Angels in reaching out to homeless veterans in downtown Lansing. There are more than 4,000 homeless veterans in Michigan alone.
“This was an eye-opening experience,” said Rep. Barrett. “On this very day that we set aside to honor veterans many of them were out in the cold with no place to go. That’s simply not okay.”
The group met several veterans on the streets and offered them a place to sleep.
In addition to helping veterans in the field, Rep. Barrett has also introduced legislation to protect the quality of life for all service members. After learning of a constituent who was unable to attend his child custody hearing because he was serving aboard a submarine in the U.S. Navy, Rep. Barrett authored a bill to protect child custody rights of service members while deployed overseas. The bill was signed into law in June and became Public Act 50 of 2015.
“No one should risk having their kids taken away because they are serving our country,” he said.
Rep. Barrett also took legislative action after hearing of a local constituent who was denied service at a restaurant because of his service dog. Last month, Public Act 146 of 2015 was signed into law, protecting veterans who are accompanied by service dogs in public. These dogs provide great relief to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, and Michigan is now a national leader in service dog protection.
Rep. Barrett encourages everyone to do what they can to help veterans in their community throughout the year, not only on Veterans Day. Barrett said Michigan veterans who have questions about benefits and services they are entitled to can visit www.michiganveterans.com for more information.
“There’s much more to be done, and I’m confident we can make a difference in the lives of many veterans in our community.”
Barrett continues to serve in the military as a Michigan Army National Guard helicopter pilot trained on several different aircraft.