By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Area veterans made time Friday, Nov. 9, to share their stories with McNary High School students as part of McNary’s Living History Day.
Vets spent time talking to classes before and after a school-wide assembly, during which Oregon State Rep. Greg Matthews (D-Gresham) delivered the keynote address.
Matthews, a U.S. Army vet, was enlisted by Celt Ryan Ripp to appear at the school after the two made a connection during testimony over a bill proposed by Ripp two years ago. The bill, which barred protesting at funerals of veterans within a certain distance, became the law of the land in 2011.
“You can’t see the scars on a lot of these people, but they’re there. Their service allows us to enjoy our lives and they’re making that sacrifice for you and me,” said Matthews, addressing the two dozen men in and out of uniform in the center of the gym. “We have a three-day weekend because of them. Take some time to give a little praise and think about who makes that possible.”
Matthews is a co-vice chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee in the Oregon State Legislature.
“My duty is to put programs and policies in place that help these soldiers and their families move forward. We have $4.2 million budgeted for their needs and we can’t find them. Things have got to change,” Matthews said.
He lamented the lack of interest in speaking before the committee on behalf of veterans in Oregon while hearings on how many kennels are allowed on private property and legalization of marijuana have packed rooms.
“I’ve got three or four people, the same three or four people, in the room every time,” Matthews said.
He encouraged students to take his message outside the school and talk about it with their friends and family.
“Veterans don’t come to us and tell us we owe them something, there are only advocates asking us to do a little better for them. The military isn’t for everybody, but they are there for all of us. You can support them, you can thank them and you can respect them. It’s a pretty good deal,” he said.