Did you know that the Oklahoma National Guard has deployed more men and women than any other state per capita over the past 15 years? Both Tulsa’s Air National Guard 138th Fighter Wing and Oklahoma’s 45th Infantry Brigade are two of the most decorated and deployed units in US history. Oklahoma has one of the highest per-capita rates of active duty volunteers as well as veterans in the country, at nearly 9%. Oklahoma has a rich military history and enjoys tremendous public support, yet in terms of state government support, we face many challenges.
To begin, we face a danger from ISIS and Islamic terrorism that is clear and present. Militant Islamic fundamentalism is not swayed by Western diplomacy. The choice is not if we engage in combat with the militants, but where; because, they will bring the fight to us one way or another. I support operations abroad which keep the battlefield away from home. This doctrine relies on sending men and women in uniform overseas, many of whom come from Oklahoma and Oklahoma units. As a Reservist myself, I have been temporarily recalled to active duty to help in this very fight.
Because the OK National Guard is so active, this results in frequent deployments by service members who deploy for several months and then return, only to redeploy shortly thereafter. Like bending a paperclip back and forth, this causes undue stress and fatigue on not only the service members but also on their spouses, families, and civilian careers. The situation worsens if the service member falls prey to PTSD or depression. Unfortunately, too many attempts to self-medicate through substance abuse, gambling, or other addictions. This seductive aftermath can lead some on the pathway to prison in one of our democracy’s most sinister ironies:
We ask our Youth’s best and brightest to fight for our country
We send them to a real-life movie which exceeds the NC-17 rating for violence
We welcome them home with a parade
We send them out again
We send them to prison after they stumble
We wonder “what happened to him? He used to be such a good kid”
Oklahoma incarcerates a disproportionately high number of veterans. Oklahoma ranks #2 in SMI (Severe Mental Illness) after #1 West Virginia (which also has one of the highest per-capita rates of veterans in the country.) To reverse this trend we need to promote awareness throughout the community and engage in prevention. Preventative measures include fostering a good environment for returning heroes, such as educating the spouses and families; promoting meaningful relationships with friends, family, and faith; and encouraging workplace supervisors to engage in the transition process.
As your state senator I am continuing to support our veterans and military:
- By establishing Veterans Treatment Courts in all 77 counties, to be modeled after Tulsa’s nationally acclaimed program. VTC allows a separate docket and graduation program designed exclusively for Veterans. The Tulsa graduation rate is an amazing 95%! It is a highly effective judicial diversionary and rehabilitative program that helps veterans and lessens incarceration.
- By improving living conditions at state-run Veterans Affairs nursing homes. Elderly veterans have been neglected, mistreated, and have even died due to conditions (one was scalded to death in a hot bathtub.)
- By monitoring conditions at newly-approved veteran drop-in centers across the state (as initiated by SB 713 from the 2015 legislature), which are modeled after Tulsa’s own Coffee Bunker, a judgment-free zone that offers peer support and counseling.
- By authorizing veteran prison teams at state prisons. When incarcerated veterans are organized into prison teams, their discipline and behavior drastically improve; recidivism declines; fewer corrections officers are needed.
- By working with VSOs (Veteran Service Organizations) and the OK Secretary of Veterans Affairs to seek unregistered veterans and educate them about federal benefits they have earned.
- By coordinating with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission to continue outreach, training, and resume-writing efforts to maximize veteran employment. As a board member for the non-profit veteran service organization Training for Success, I assist disabled veterans to start their own businesses. As your State Senator, I will continue efforts to employ our veterans.
Combat Service Members
- By helping to ensure Title 32 funding (state-appropriated funding for guard units as compared to Title 10, which is federally-appropriated) is adequate for continued training, facilities upkeep, and equipment maintenance.
- By supporting National Guard family programs, such as Survivor Services, which assist the families of deployed service members as well as those who die in the line of duty.
- By continuing to work with Gov. Fallin’s F-35 Task Force, a consortium of public/private agencies who are working together to bring the F-35 to the Tulsa Air National Guard (138th FW), which will replace the F-16. It is imperative that we bring the F-35 to Tulsa or else the 138th could face closure. The 138th employs 1,200 Guardsmen and has an economic impact of $500M per year. Tulsa needs to keep its military base.
Please review the information on the pages to the left and feel free to contact me with your opinions using the contact link above.