John Gebhardt: Welcome all veterans

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.

We are a nation at war. Sure, it is winding down. How many were killed last month, 20 or 30? How many were injured, 100 or 200?

Only about 1 percent of this nation is in the fight, a fight fought by defenders of our national freedom and our national pride. A nation comprised and forged to union of 50 states. Florida is one of those states.

So they hump the deserts, the hills and biblical terrain in all types of weather and deprivation, under the eyes of our nation's enemy.

War is tough and this longest of wars is being fought by an age group that was in middle school when we were attacked. They enlisted, put it all in, knowing the fight was on. Each signed up to serve our nation and to serve the state of Florida. Some have died, many have been injured, some have witnessed unspeakable events that may forever change how they think and live their future.

All become veterans, and about half of them will elect to use their earned GI Bill educational benefit to attend a post-secondary school.

While seven other states of the union welcome this new greatest generation with open arms by providing in-state tuition, Florida does not.

Some members of the state Senate and House support in-state tuition for all veterans with legislation like Senate Bill 260, which recently passed the Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously.

But Education Committee Chair Sen. John Legg want to find excuses to push the new veterans away from Florida and kill the bill. It's just the opposite of what Florida did following World War II.

Florida should have only one standard for any current war veteran: open arms. Florida should say: You cared for us in war, now we will do this little thing for you. Welcome to all veterans. And please, attend school here, work here, marry here and stay here. Bring your federal education dollars to our stagnant economy. We welcome you and we need more of you.

The great state of Florida must open the closed door of welcome to the 1 percent who have fought this longest of wars and have open arms for this new greatest generation. In-state tuition is a first step to show our love for what they have done for us.

John Gebhardt is a veteran advocate at Santa Fe College and the University of Florida.

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