Honoring our nation’s veterans

Ronald Reagan once said this: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” South Dakota has a proud history of military service – generations who volunteered to protect and defend liberty. It’s one of the thin
When I became governor, I told my team that I wanted to be a governor that doesn’t just say thank you to our veterans – the people who fought for our freedoms. I want to be a leader that demonstrates that gratitude in the policy we make and the actions we take. I’m proud that we’re pulling together to make South Dakota an example to the nation on how we treat our veterans and the men and women who currently serve.
At the end of October, I was honored to help welcome home Operation Atlantic Resolve – a National Guard mission – after they served overseas for 315 days. I watched mommies and daddies hold their little ones for the first time in 10 months. It touched my heart to see two little girls sitting on their dad’s lap wearing t-shirts that said “Operation: Bring Daddy Home.”
For these men and women – and all who remain in uniform – I am committed to maximizing readiness capabilities. Just this year, we put $5 million of state funds behind the construction of the Army Aviation Readiness Center in Rapid City. We’re also looking to start construction of the Sioux Falls Readiness Center in the next few years. We must equip our National Guard with the next-generation tools and equipment they need to train, prepare, and protect our state.
And we’re taking care of our veterans. In March, I signed a bill that increased the property tax exemption for certain veterans who live with disabilities or the spouses of veterans who had disabilities. I signed another bill that authorizes certain paraplegic or amputee veterans to receive a tax exemption without having to reapply each year. We’ve also increased the number of beds at the Hot Springs Veterans Home so we can care for more veterans. 
Additionally, we’ve continued the veterans bonus program, which gives a modest financial stipend to South Dakotans who served on active duty during a wartime period. We added two veterans benefits staff in the Department of Veterans Affair to better connect our veterans to the benefits they deserve. And we broke ground on the first-ever State Veterans Cemetery – a sacred space outside Sioux Falls where families will be able to lay to rest their heroes, giving them the burial place they so deeply deserve.  
There is no way to fully compensate our veterans for the sacrifices they’ve made, but this Veterans Day, I encourage you to take a moment and personally thank one of South Dakota’s 72,000 patriots and their families. Volunteer at your local VFW, American Legion, or another community organization that serves veterans. Go out of your way to let those who’ve served know that you their sacrifices are not taken for granted. There is a price to freedom, and we can never forget that.gs that makes this state so great.
—By Gov. Kristi Noem

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