Last month on Veterans Day, Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a statement thanking American veterans for their service and sacrifice. He attended a memorial ceremony at the Boulder City veterans home and paused to remember all the veterans in "all of the wars fought in defense of freedom."
Earlier in the year Sandoval paid a visit to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and wrote that he was "proud to see our Nevada National Guard members overseas." He quoted the director of the United States War Office of Information during World War II, Elmer Davis: "This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."
During a sit-down interview he gave me, the governor, who is not a veteran, was asked if he had any family members who served in the military. "Yes, I am very proud of the fact that my father served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War," he answered. "My grandfather fought in World War II in the Pacific Theater. And I am very proud of him and his service ... and I have such a profound respect for all who served in the U.S. military."
On a separate but related note, Latinos in the military have long contributed to the safety, security and wartime service of America. Today that contribution continues, and the reasons are multifaceted. Because of the current G.I. Bill, many individuals (Hispanic and otherwise) join the military to take advantage of the chance at a college education.
According to a report in the magazine Poder, thousands of Latinos find that the military can provide opportunities in life that they could not find elsewhere. In addition to the financial, educational and career benefits, some say that life in the military provides a "safe haven" from racial discrimination that often crops up in daily civilian life. And while the number of Latinos serving in the military is below the Hispanic share of the population, the U.S. military has a reputation of being an equal opportunity employer. The Rand National Research Institute reports that Latinos make up 17 percent of the general population ages 18-40 but only 11.4 percent of the Army.
Regarding education, the Post- 9/11 G.I. Bill offers a broad range of learning opportunities for eligible veterans including the cost of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, books and supplies and other benefits. Generally a minimum three-year enlistment is required. And as with most government programs, there are strict guidelines and regulations that must be followed. (To obtain additional information, some contact numbers are noted below.) Sandoval said he has spoken with the local chancellor, who in turn is approaching the Board of Regents about the possibility of easing veterans into Nevada's colleges using the G.I. Bill.
Further discussing Nevada's veterans, Sandoval said he hopes that a recent small-business initiative will assist them in obtaining commercial loans to start small businesses. He noted that granting loans is ultimately up to banks and lending institutions but added, "We're trying to do the best we can to help fill that gap." Regarding employment in the state, he noted that he recently wrote to the White House seeking to end what he called burdensome business regulations regarding jobs in Nevada's mining industry. If he gets what he asked for, he said, it may provide for expedited opening of mines and more opportunities for job creation in the state's mining towns.
Sandoval was asked to comment about the state's National Guard, which he heads. "I will continue to work very closely with the Guard," he said. "I'm going to be a tireless advocate for veterans. ... It's truly an honor and a privilege to serve as commander-in-chief of the Guard."
For additional information about the G.I. Bill, here are some contact phone numbers and websites for use by veterans: education, 888-442-4551 or www.gibill.va.gov; home loans, 888-244-6711 or www.homeloans.va.gov; female veterans, 202-461-1070 or www.publichealth.va.gov/womanshealth; employment and training, www.dol.gov/vets; general VA benefits, 800-827-1000.
Journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He is the managing editor of Nevada's Veterans Reporter newspaper and the host of the "Veterans Reporter Radio Show" on KLAV (1230 AM) from 8-9 p.m. Thursdays and of the "Veterans Reporter TV Show" at 2:30 a.m. Fridays on VegasTV KTUD Cable 14.