Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the activities that will take place over this three-day weekend: Getting together with family, going to the beach, having a cookout, the Indianapolis 500, just being outside for what seems like the first time in forever.
But this weekend is important for a reason that should never be forgotten in all the celebrations.
It is Memorial Day, a time when we honor the men and women who have made so many sacrifices to protect our country.
Of course, the holiday is to pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice through the years.
But I also look on this weekend as a chance to remember those who have served their time, come back home, and are simply looking for the chance to return to a normal life.
In other words, it’s a time to pay tribute to someone like Kirk Henritzy, a military veteran who is looking to make a new life for himself.
I came to know Kirk after he contacted my Statehouse office with a problem: he could not afford the out-of-state tuition needed to attend the hospitality program at Purdue University Calumet.
Kirk didn’t want a handout; he wanted a hand up.
Fortunately, Purdue Calumet has a wonderful program called "From Boots to Books," which is designed to create a community of university personnel, students and community agencies dedicated toward helping veterans reach their educational goals. Here are just a few things From Boots to Books can help with:
- Assistance in filing the proper paperwork to get military benefits.
- Academic advising and tutoring.
- Assistance in adjusting to the college experience.
- And, as the people who run the program put it: “A place to gather with understanding hearts, sympathetic ears, a footlocker full of information, and a full coffee pot!”
Thanks to the fine folks at "From Boots to Books," Kirk is on his way toward gaining the skills he needs to begin the next part of his life. My office is continuing to work with Kirk and the good folks at Purdue University Calumet to ensure that he has an opportunity to meet his educational goals.
Kirk has been very thankful and appreciative of everyone's efforts on his behalf: "I hope that this can get resolved so I can complete my education and continue to follow my dreams," he said recently.
I think about Kirk's life, and stop to consider the importance of doing more to help our veterans. Yes, you always say, “Thank you.” But if we can do more, we should.
As a state legislator, I have the chance to help so many people achieve the goals they want in their lives. It is one of the greatest honors I have as an elected official. We all should do more. Programs like “From Boots to Books” are the models that show the way for the rest of us.
In the next few days, enjoy the weather, the good times with family and friends, and the barbecue. But spend a few moments thinking about the men and women who fought to make this country what it is today. Have a wonderful Memorial Day.