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In 1999, the United States Congress officially declared the month of May as Military Appreciation Month. This designation was put into place to recognize the large number of military observances held in the month of May and to honor the sacrifices of our service members. Each year, a proclamation is issued by the president that pays tribute to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day and the families and friends who support them. These observances continue throughout the month.

May 7 is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. The wives and husbands of soldiers make sacrifices every day, giving up time in their marriage and worrying about their spouse as they serve our country throughout the world. They are the backbone of military families, and our country could not be safe and secure without them. Military Spouse Appreciation Day is a way to thank them for all they do.

On May 8, we celebrate the anniversary of Victory in Europe. The European theater of World War II came to an end on May 8, 1945, with the Allies formally accepting the unconditional surrender of German armed forces. Every year since, the U.S. and its allies have observed the end of the second Great War on this date. It is a time to think about the sacrifices of the greatest generation and thank them for saving the world. As President Truman said “… our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band.”

Armed Forces Day will be celebrated May 15 this year, honoring all Americans currently serving in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. This day of remembrance was created in 1949 to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force days. The separate branches had been unified under the Department of Defense in 1947, and the unified Armed Forces Day helped to reflect that change. It is a day to say thank you to all service members currently serving in any branch of our military.

May 31 will be Memorial Day. A federal holiday, Memorial Day has its roots in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It began as a day to honor soldiers who died during the bloody conflict, and later, it became a day to honor all soldiers and service members who gave their last full measure in defense of our country.

In the Legislature this year, we have several pieces of legislation designed to help soldiers and their families. Senate Bill 120 contains provisions to designate a separate Military Family Month in November, to aid National Guard members in finding employment, to create jobs through qualified military projects in the Missouri Works program and to allow an income tax deduction for military retirement benefits.

House Bill 476, which I sponsored in the Senate, will help service members translate the skills they acquire in the military into jobs here at home. The bill will allow military occupational specialties to qualify under our state’s license reciprocity laws, and that means better jobs for our returning military professionals.

Although we have these designated days to honor the men and women that fight for our freedoms, they deserve our respect and help every day. They give us their time, their effort, and sometimes their lives. Thank you to all the service members that keep this nation free.

State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, represents the 6th District and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.

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