Westfield helps plan Indiana Military Veterans Legislative Day


Jan. 16 marked the 10th annual Indiana Military Veterans Legislative Day at the Statehouse. Chaired by Westfield resident and U.S. Air Force veteran Lisa Wilken, the event allowed veterans and members of the military the opportunity to meet with legislators, organizations and agencies.

Founded by State Rep. John L. Bartlett (D-District 95), the nonpartisan event was co-sponsored by Bartlett and Speaker of the House Todd Huston (R-District 37.)

“For the past 10 years, I have had the honor of sponsoring Indiana Military and Veterans Legislative Day to bring our honorable veterans and active military members face to face with lawmakers,” Bartlett stated. “These brave men and women have sacrificed for the freedom of our nation. Indiana owes our servicemen and servicewomen the dignity of listening to their input on legislation to make sure that it improves their lives and the lives of their families.”

Bartlett authored and read House Resolution 3, which recognized the 10th annual IMVL Day. He also announced that he will turn over his position as event sponsor to Rep. Renee Pack (D-District 92), a U.S. Army veteran who co-authored the resolution.

The event recognized 87 bills and 36 resolutions in Indiana that have benefitted veterans over the past 10 years, highlighting several of the most significant, including the bill signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, which eliminated state tax on veteran retirement pay.

The event also celebrated recent inductees to the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame. Veterans from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, living or deceased, were considered. The 15 inductees for 2023 included Wilken and astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom.

Westfield-based nonprofit Chairs of Honor presented a handmade chair to be displayed in an Indiana courthouse as a reminder that every veteran holds a place of honor in communities and has a story to share. Marshall County was selected to receive the chair, handmade by Marine veteran Tyler Anderson from Lakewood, Colo.

State Rep. Craig Haggard, (R-District 57) presented House concurrent resolution 9, which he authored, asking for “the support of every Hoosier to help reduce veteran suicide.” A Marine and Air Force veteran, Haggard said that an average of 17 veterans die by suicide every day.

“We’ve all lost brothers and sisters on the battlefield and after the battle,” Haggard said. “I’ve personally lost two friends. I don’t know if we’ll ever fix this, but I know a lot of people are trying.”

Keynote speaker retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Keith J. Williams encouraged veterans in the audience to take advantage of the benefits offered to them, especially in light of the recent PACT Act,  which represents the largest Veterans Affairs expansion in history.

“Although your service was then,” Williams said, “your benefits are now.”

Hamilton County Veterans Corporation was among the financial sponsors for the event. Close to 50 exhibitors had booths set up offering information and services to veterans, and 22 JROTC men and women helped set up and provide free lunch to around 300 people in attendance.

“I am very pleased with the participation,” Wilken said. “Even with the (cold) weather, so many showed up for Hoosier veterans, and legislators attended to hear the voices of veterans. I’m extremely grateful to all of the volunteers and financial contributors and to Rep. Bartlett and Speaker Huston for sponsoring this annual day.”

For more, visit veteranslegislativeday.com.