Legion National Commander Testifies at South Carolina Statehouse
Sen. Tom Davis, Rep. Ralph Norman named outstanding lawmakers
The head of the nation's largest wartime veterans service organization testified before a joint session of the South Carolina legislature today and called on lawmakers to make it easier for employers to hire veterans.
"Veterans have undergone strenuous training, performed in high-stress environments, and bring a set of skills and discipline from which most employers and communities can truly benefit," The American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said.
Koutz's testimony came a day after he led a delegation of South Carolina Legionnaires on a visit to Fort Jackson, where they delivered more than $6,500 worth of athletic equipment and sporting goods to the warrior transition unit. "What our delegation witnessed there was a compassionate and dedicated staff of professionals that work every day to improve the spirits and the physical well-being of men and women who have not just borne our battles in war, but may have been injured or struck with illness while serving their country in garrison," Koutz continued. "And while nobody questions the dedication of the medical and transition staff, our federal government does not provide the quality of life that these heroes truly deserve. That is why The American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors program exists."
Koutz has made the program, which provides comfort items to wounded warriors in U.S. military hospitals and warrior transition units around the world, one of his top priorities as leader of the 2.4-million member organization. He cited a donation and
discounts provided by DICK's Sporting Goods an "an important example of the ‘can-do' spirit of cooperation that often exists when citizens and the business community come together to support an outstanding cause."
The testimony took a somber tone when Koutz recalled the heroism of three South Carolina National Guard members who were killed by a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last June. "All of these men were fathers and husbands. They are remembered by hundreds of family members and friends who loved them," he said of 1st Lt. Ryan Davis Rawl, Sgt. First Class Matthew "Brad" Thomas and Spec. John Meador.
Koutz thanked the legislature for passing a law to include veterans status on South Carolina drivers' licenses. "Veterans don't typically walk around carrying their discharge papers or DD-214s. If you are not retired, you no longer carry a military id. That is one of the many reasons why this recognition on the drivers' licenses is important and was strongly supported by The American Legion Department of South Carolina. I hope more states follow your example."
A Vietnam War veteran of the U.S. Army, Koutz is a member of American Legion Post 200 in Boonville, Ind. His testimony capped the end of a three-day visit to the Palmetto State. He presented State Sen. Tom Davis and State Rep. Ralph Norman with plaques designating them "Outstanding Members of the Legislature for 2013," as selected by The American Legion Department of South Carolina.
The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.