By Oregon State Senator David Brock Smith
In 2019, the unclaimed cremains of 28 Veterans were found to be sitting in mortuaries in Douglas County. With the help of our CVSO’s and local Veterans groups, these cremains were located, outreach was made to locate their families and these heroes were finally given the proper burials they deserve. But that was just the beginning, as there are potentially hundreds of unclaimed Veteran cremains across the state.
Legislation even as important as this, can unfortunately take time to get through the process. I originally drafted and introduced HB 3412 in the 2021 Legislative Session, with the help of Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, that would have directed the County Veterans Service Officers to locate any unclaimed Veteran cremains, attempt to locate their families and help coordinate their honored burial with local Veteran organizations. It was referred to the Committee on Business and Labor, where Committee Chair Representative Paul Holvey refused to have a hearing. Without a hearing scheduled by Committee Chair Holvey, we could not move the legislation forward for our Veterans and their families.
Representative Goodwin and I then redrafted the bill HB 4082 for the 2022 Legislative Short Session. The bill unfortunately did not make it through the process in that session either.
Representative Goodwin then worked with Representative Grayber and brought back the bill (HB 2147) in the 2023 Legislative Session through the House Committee on Veterans and Emergency Management. Committee Chair Representative Paul Evans, an Air Force Veteran, agreed to introduce the bill from his Committee. We were successful in passing the legislation during the session.
During this weeks Legislative Days in the Capitol, HB 2147 received a ceremonial signing by Governor Kotek, while surrounded by Douglas County Veterans, Commissioner Freeman, Representative Lewis, Representative Grayber, Representative Goodwin and myself.
I sincerely appreciate all of the advocacy and support from our Veterans and their organizations on this legislation and the great work by Representative Goodwin to get the bill through the legislative process. I also appreciate the work and support from Representative Osborne and Representative Boice in moving the legislation in the House.
Thank you to our Douglas County Veterans and Commissioner Freeman for taking the time to travel to Salem to join us for the signing of this important legislation that will give our fallen heroes the honored burials they deserve.
“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not our by inheritance, it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again,” Ronald Reagan, January 5th, 1967.
May we always remember, to honor our Veterans and their families everyday, for their service and sacrifice to our state and nation.
Stay safe and God Bless you, your family and your neighbor.