INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of Hoosier military veterans, including a busload from Northwest Indiana, filled the Statehouse Tuesday to celebrate their service and urge lawmakers to back policies that meet veterans' needs.

The Military-Veterans Coalition of Indiana is seeking legislative action on 14 priorities ranging from a greater state tax exemption for military-connected income to improved efforts to end veteran homelessness, creating a scratch-off lottery ticket benefiting veteran causes and tax credits for businesses that hire veterans or National Guard members.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, a U.S. Navy veteran, did not speak to the specific proposals advocated by the veterans group, but declared his wholehearted support for Indiana veterans and veterans issues generally during the group's patriotic program.

"Each and every day, we owe it all — not a lot, not some — but we owe it all to our veterans," Holcomb said.

"The truth is there are millions around the world who have benefited, both directly and indirectly, from the service of the American veteran, because no one group in the history of human civilization has liberated more land and freed more people than the Americans."

The governor said he's pleased that no matter where he travels in the state, from the largest cities to the smallest towns, he always finds a veteran monument or memorial in a prominent place.

"Indiana is ... overflowing with pride for our veterans," Holcomb said.

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Dave Hinshaw, a U.S. Army and Indiana National Guard veteran, who co-hosts the Veterans Views radio program on Hammond's WJOB-AM, said he thinks it's good that Indiana's governor is a veteran because it gives Holcomb a better understanding of veterans issues.

"It also means that we have a better chance of getting legislation passed on our behalf," said Hinshaw, who stopped at the Indiana Veterans Home in Lafayette to drop off $700 in donations on his way to the Statehouse.

Charles Bustamante, of Highland, who served 20 years in the Marine Corps and now is vice commander of Highland American Legion Post 180 and Highland VFW 1009, said every effort to aid, in particular, disabled veterans is needed.

"I'm a disabled vet myself, and I see a lot of obstacles I had to get through just to get my benefits," Bustamante said. "Veterans shouldn't have to do that.

"I'm strong-willed, strong-minded so I pushed through it. A lot of people just stop, because they think that nobody is going to help them."

Bustamante said everyone has an obligation to give back to veterans, since veterans, through their service, have given up years of their lives and time with their families to protect and defend their fellow citizens.

The full list of veterans agenda items is available online at nwi.com.

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