Georgia is blessed to be the home of more than 700,000 veterans and more than 88,000 reserve and active-duty members. We have ten military installations in our state and the sixth-largest National Guard population in the United States, with around 14,000 members. As a former National Guard member myself, I have watched with great pride and respect as our current National Guard members serve our state and citizens during this unprecedented crisis.
Along with performing their typical duties, our Georgia National Guard members have sent teams to COVID-19 hotspots all over the state to help with the medical and practical needs of Georgians facing unforeseen circumstances. Over 600 National Guard members worked with Augusta University, testing as many as 2,200 Georgians per day, and provided medical assistance teams at hospitals. Additionally, infection control teams made up of National Guard members were sent to long-term care facilities to support the hard-working staff at these locations. Finally, while Georgia was under stay-at-home orders, Our National Guard members packed approximately 90 million pounds of food for food banks and prepared and delivered almost 950,000 meals to Georgians in need.
This year, we prioritized funding for resources to support our veterans and National Guard members during our legislative session. We allocated $1.2 million to the Department of Veterans Services for renovations, technology improvements, and patient connectivity initiatives at the two Georgia War Veterans nursing homes, located in Augusta and Milledgeville, increasing the number of veterans served at these two facilities. We also allocated $450,000 to provide for a rehabilitation unit at the veterans nursing home in Milledgeville. This unit will provide care and treatment to Georgia veterans who are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or amputations of one or more limbs and who are rated at 70 percent Service Connected Disabled (SCD). The Georgia Military Pension fund, which supports the state’s retired National Guard members, received almost $2.7 million to support our retired and retiring National Guard members.
In the current fiscal year, over $5.2 million in scholarships and grants are funded for future members of our nation’s military. This funding will be distributed through the North Georgia Military Scholarship Grants, the North Georgia ROTC Grants, and the Georgia Military College Scholarship programs. Additionally, approximately 350 Georgians will receive assistance from the Georgia National Guard Service Cancelable Loans program. Thanks to a $2.2 million bond to fund renovations, newly retired veterans and their families will continue to receive quality career and educational resources at the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center. This vital resource for veterans is located on the campus of Chattahoochee Technical College in Cobb County.
Georgia’s Department of Defense received $14 million in bonds to renovate, maintain, and improve its facilities across the state. This funding impacts a National Guard readiness center in Effingham County, one of the sites that allows the state to respond quickly to emergencies.
The women and men of the military who serve our state and country can never be adequately repaid. Still, we can honor them by supporting them as they plan for careers after military service and by ensuring that the services they need are funded.
Thank you all for allowing me to represent Georgia House District 159. It is truly an honor to work for you and this great state. If you have any feedback, do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), email, or engage on Facebook. If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159, which includes parts of Bulloch County in the Georgia General Assembly where he serves as the House majority leader.