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Bill Honors Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

RICHMOND – Military personnel involved in Iraq and Afghanistan soon may be included among the veterans officially honored on Memorial Day and Veterans Day in Virginia.

House Bill 1226, which has cleared the House and is pending in the Senate, would add the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to the list of wars officially remembered on the two veterans-related holidays.

On Feb. 12, the House unanimously approved HB 1226, which was introduced by Delegate Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarrett. The bill is awaiting a vote by the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology.

Tyler said the bill has drawn support from residents of her district. She represents the 75th House District, which includes Greensville and Sussex counties; parts of Brunswick, Isle of Wight, Lunenburg and Southampton counties; the city of Emporia; and part of the city of Franklin.

“I’m not a veteran of any sort, but I do have the National Guard in my area who were recently deployed and returned from Iraq,” Tyler said. “I am particularly honored to have my National Guardsmen serve in the Iraqi war.”

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 led the United States to take military action in the Middle East. Tyler’s bill notes that the U.S. military has been waging the Global War on Terror since 2000, Operation Enduring Freedom (in Afghanistan) since 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom since 2003.

But those wars are not included in the existing state law designating Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

“The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t listed in the code as being recognized. So the idea was simply to get them proper recognition,” said Steve Cones, director of public policy and planning for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

The current law includes conflicts up to Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm in 1991.

On Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, Virginians honor “all persons who made the supreme sacrifice in giving their lives in defense of Virginia and the United States” in 12 specific wars, beginning with the Indian Uprising of 1622.

On Veterans Day, Virginians honor everyone who served in the armed forces of Virginia and the United States during those 12 wars.

Cones noted that veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq already are unofficially honored on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

“Regardless of whether it’s in the code or not, people, veterans, citizens and the military community will recognize veterans who have served or been killed in all conflicts for these holidays,” Cones said.

HB 1226 would make the state recognition official. It also would allow localities to issue permits for monuments or memorials honoring Virginians who fought in the Global War on Terror and Operation Enduring Freedom.