More than 200 veterans attend Vietnam era pinning celebration

Originally published in the News Herald

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 9283 in Southgate hosted a pinning ceremony for Vietnam-era veterans and their families Aug. 13. More than 200 families showed up for the service.

The event, was officially called “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Event to Thank and Honor Vietnam Veterans and Their Families,” was sponsored by state Senate Majority leader Mike Kowall (R-White Lake).

“It was humbling to have the distinct honor to  recognize and thank the Vietnam veterans and their families on behalf of our nation,” Kowall said.  “The post commander, auxiliary members, and the veterans present were very gracious and welcoming.  I enjoyed seeing Mayor Joseph Kuspa pay tribute to the Vietnam veterans in his community”.

Kowal has been hosting similar events across the state in recent months.

“It is always a moving time for me when I am able to present the lapel pins and personally thank each veteran for their service,” Kowall said.

VFW Post 9283 Commander Bill Ainsworth was also happy to be honoring so many veterans .

“As I looked across the crowd and saw 200 veterans waiting to get recognition after 50 years, it made me feel proud to be an American.   The veterans who attended were not only there for themselves, but for the 58,000 who never came home and the thousands buried across the nation who didn’t live to see the day”.

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam stretched from November 1955 to April 1975.

Kowell said the event will be geared toward giving veterans from that era “long-overdue” recognition for their service to the country.

The commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense and launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war.

Information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Vietnam vets honored in ceremony marking 50th anniversary of war

From Fox2 News

There are more than seven million Americans Vietnam veterans still among us today. They made sacrifices and fought in an unpopular war but are just now getting the recognition they deserve.

During a special ceremony on Monday, soldiers who bravely served the United States go the ‘thank you’ they should have gotten years ago. It was part of a pinning ceremony in South Lyon held by state Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake).

“It’s nice to be recognized. Little late but nice anyway,” Vietnam veteran Charles Harmon said.

On Monday Kowall held a pinning ceremony in South Lyon to honor Vietnam vets during the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.

“They were so poorly treated when they came home. I know it’s late but at least they get acknowledged for what they did, service and above all thank you and welcome home,” Kowall said.

Chuck Harmon did three tours of duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War. The conflict put the communist regime of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its main ally the United States.

For many in the U.S., the war was unpopular and some vets say when they returned home they did not feel appreciated.

“It was a very bad coming home,” Harmon said. “People who I went to high school with, went to college and didn’t understand what we went through. So that was pretty hard.”

Harmon wasn’t at the ceremony alone. His family was there as well, wearing t-shirt designed specially for the ceremony.

“All the trials and tribulations that he’s gone through since he’s been home we try to support him any way we can,” his wife Niki Workman, said.

The ceremony for the veterans comes as President Barak Obama drops an arms embargo on Vietnam

“I understand what the President is trying to do as far as increasing relations but I’m leery about opening arms treaty with Vietnam considering what’s going on in China and China Sea,” Kowall said.

Harmon says the physical and emotional pain of Vietnam still lingers and that’s why this thank you pin means so much, so many years later

“(I) hope people recognize that we are still here, still having problems, and it’s nice to be recognized finally,” Harmon said.

Commerce Walmart donates to Open Door backpack program

From Spinal Column Online

Thanks to a generous donation of backpacks and various school supplies, approximately 75 children will receive the supplies they need for a positive school year this summer.

Lee Crawford, store manager for Commerce Township Walmart store #2618, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall presented dozens of backpacks containing various school supplies to the Open Door Outreach Center on Friday, April 22.

“It really brings such joy to the heart to be able to know that you are part of helping the community, and that’s why I love Walmart because they give me that opportunity,” Crawford said.

The backpacks will be used to support Open Door’s back to school program, which last year distributed backpacks stuffed with age-appropriate school supplies to 50 of their client’s children. In addition to supplies, the backpacks include vouchers to shop for clothes at the center’s resale clothing store and a local retailer. The program kicks off the second week of August.

“Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Lee Crawford from Walmart Store #2618 are community builders,” said Karen Myers, director of Open Door. “These backpacks help create a successful school experience building a strong future for our children. This is how you build our community.”

Spinal Column: Michigan’s crumbling roads are unacceptable; we must act now

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

If you were to crisscross the great state of Michigan, visiting every town and village, travelling along every city street and back road and every state and interstate highway, you would end up driving on more than 120,000 miles of paved roadway—enough road to span the distance from Lansing to California and back more than 25 times.

We all know that this great network of roads can take us anywhere we want to go in the state. But we also know that our roads and bridges are in terrible shape—and that sometimes the trip just doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

I have yet to meet a Michigan driver who is satisfied with the condition of the roads. If you are like the average Michigander, you now pay $357 annually in unnecessary repairs to your vehicle due to damage caused by these roads. Perhaps you pay more.

But that’s not all. In addition to higher repair bills, our crumbling infrastructure contributes to injuries and lost economic growth.

Simply put, the economic, financial, and physical cost of our decaying roads is unacceptable.

This rapidly deteriorating infrastructure in Michigan is due to a serious lack of investment. Recent bills have brought this complex yet urgent issue of infrastructure funding to the forefront in the state Legislature.

Part of the complexity involved in finding a funding solution is that today’s vehicles have much better fuel economy than vehicles of the past. This results in lower revenues collected at the pump from the fixed fuel tax. At the same time, the costs of materials and labor continue to rise.

This leaves us with two options: invest now to fix the problems that have built up over the last decade, or continue to allow inaction by kicking the can down the road to future legislators.

The second option would result in an increasingly dilapidated infrastructure with repair costs that would continue to rise until the price tag is out of reach for those who would be stuck with the bill—our children and grandchildren.

So the answer is to invest now. I recently supported a common-sense plan that adopts the invest-now approach in a responsible manner. The plan eliminates the state’s current 19-cents-per-gallon gas tax and 15-cents-per-gallon diesel tax in favor of a percentage wholesale tax on fuel, which is a more viable long-term funding approach.

Under the proposal sent to the House of Representatives for consideration, the wholesale tax would begin at 9 percent on April 1, 2015, and gradually increase to 15.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2018. This plan also takes important steps to increase fines for overweight trucks.

The plan the Senate passed will stop the deterioration of Michigan’s roads and bridges and put us back on the path to rebuilding and improving them. A modern, well-maintained infrastructure is essential to Michigan’s economy and quality of life. Further neglect will only cost taxpayers more in the long run and deter economic investment across the state. We cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our roads.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Spinal Column: On Veterans Day, let us thank America’s patriots

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Next Tuesday we will celebrate one of the great American holidays: Veterans Day. On Nov. 11 every year, we honor our fellow Americans who have served in our armed forces.

Veterans Day is about more than parades—although certainly a military parade is fitting recognition for our veterans.

Veterans Day is a time when we reflect on the many blessings we enjoy as Americans. One of our greatest blessings is freedom: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and freedom to pursue happiness as we see fit.

Today our freedoms are under attack, from without and within. Some don’t like our way of life, and they want to destroy it. Others don’t seem to understand that our freedoms are precious gifts that need to be protected. The saying is true: “Freedom isn’t free.”

Our veterans understand that truth better than anyone. They make sacrifices every day, whether they are in combat situations or not. Some, of course, do see combat, and some make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

That is why I consider our veterans America’s greatest heroes. They are prepared to put their lives on the line for us every day. They work to strengthen and preserve peace not only here, but across the world. The rights we enjoy under our Constitution are safe today because brave men and women stand ready to fight for them.

We must not take this freedom for granted. Veterans Day helps ensure that we won’t.

If you know any veterans, take some time on Veterans Day to remember them. Attend a Veterans Day parade. Thank the veterans you know for their service. Invite them to dinner or take them to lunch.

If you don’t know any veterans, you can contact the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at 517-481-8083. They will gladly put you in touch with veterans who may need assistance.

As long as we have patriots who are willing to risk all they have to serve their country, we will be able to live up to the words of President Abraham Lincoln: “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

We owe our freedoms to these patriots, to the men and women in uniform who put their nation before themselves. May we be ever grateful for all that our veterans have done for us.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Sen. Kowall welcomes Rabbi Miller to Capitol to give Senate invocation

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, welcomed Rabbi Mark Miller (center right) of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills to the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday. Rabbi Miller gave the invocation before the start of the Senate session. Also welcoming Miller was Rep. Mike McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills, (left) and Eleanor Blum, a constituent of Kowall’s.

Note:  For a print-quality version of this and other Kowall photos, click the image or click Photowire under the Media Center tab, above.

Sen. Kowall welcomes guests to Capitol to commemorate 9-11

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, and state Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi, welcome Novi Fire Department Lt. Remo Oliverio (left) and Novi Police Department Officer Louis Bigliardi (right) to the Michigan Capitol on Thursday to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy.

Note: Click the image for a print-quality version. This and other photos are also available by clicking the Photowire link under the Media Center tab, above.

Spinal Column: Decide now: Have a great school year!

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

School is back in session. That means that many parents are breathing a sigh of relief. For their children, going back to school means catching up with old friends and adjusting to the routine of getting up earlier and doing homework.

There are some important things we all should remember for this new school year.

The first priority—for parents, students and drivers—is that our students make it safely to and from school.

For kids riding the bus there are three main points to remember: 1) Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop and the doors are open before stepping into the roadway; 2) never put your head, arms or hands out of the bus window; and 3) when crossing the street, STOP, look left, then right and then left again before crossing.

For all drivers, remember two critical rules when around a school bus: 1) If the yellow overhead lights are flashing, be prepared to stop; and 2) if the red lights are flashing, STOP, and remain stopped until the red flashing lights are turned off and the school bus begins moving.

Once safety has been established, children are ready to learn.

You may be surprised to learn that neither a family’s income nor social status is the most accurate predictor of how well a student does in school. Rather, success depends on other factors in the home. First, parents must create a home environment that encourages learning. Second, they should communicate high, yet reasonable, expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers. And finally, parents need to be involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.

If you are the parent of an elementary school student, talk frequently to your child’s teacher. Ask about your child’s progress and ask for ideas on what you can do to assist in ensuring your child’s success. Read to your child every day, or have them read to you.

If you are the parent of an older student, encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities (sports, music, drama, and many others). Make sure you attend their events! Support your child’s interest in getting involved in mentoring and career exploration and career shadowing experiences. Use technology resources to monitor your child’s grades and assignments.

I encourage all parents in the 15th District to try to make time to help and support their young students. For further assistance in this area, the Michigan Department of Education has many useful resources available on its website at www.michigan.gov/mde. The “Parent Engagement” section offers numerous links and information that can be tremendously helpful.

Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep, arrives to school on time, completes their homework and eats healthy meals. Build up your child’s self-confidence with positive reinforcement and encouragement. These foundations are as essential as anything else in ensuring a child’s academic success.

Remember, success in school is largely up to the choices made by parents and students. Make good choices, and have a great school year!

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Spinal Column: Michigan: The future is bright

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

When I ran for the Michigan Senate in 2010, the state was at the tail end of what I and others refer to as the “Lost Decade”: a time when Michigan was hemorrhaging both jobs and residents. Four years later, many are rightly calling Michigan the “Comeback State.”

Today there are about 143,000 more Michigan residents with jobs than in 2010; unemployment continues on its downward trajectory; and the state’s growth in both gross domestic product and personal income are some of the highest in the nation.

I am thankful that, as the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee, I was able to play a significant role in these developments and others critical to our state’s future.

One of these other initiatives was the reform of the state’s personal property tax law. This reform will reduce the tax burden on our job providers and keep our local schools and communities whole. It will eliminate a tax that punishes employers for expanding and investing in their business and creating jobs.

Although the Legislature passed this plan earlier this year, it was subject to a vote of the people on the August 2014 statewide primary ballot. I am thankful that last Tuesday, Michigan residents voted to make this reform state law.

Lawmakers continue to take our fiscal responsibility seriously. For the fourth straight year, the Michigan Senate and House delivered—and the governor signed—a balanced budget ahead of schedule.

The budget makes important investments in our roads, our communities and our future.

Attracting well-paying jobs remains our top priority. The budget builds upon past reforms so that young people will not be forced to leave Michigan to find work.

The budget holds government accountable for every tax dollar spent, and it takes a responsible long-term approach to budgeting that pays down billions in debt so the mistakes of the past will never be repeated.

Michigan has moved well beyond the bleak years of the Lost Decade. We are putting policies in place that make us attractive to job providers and give our residents reasons to stay. And we are being fiscally wise. Michigan’s future is bright.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Spinal Column: Summertime in Michigan brings a whole new level of fun

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Welcome to summer, Oakland County! While the start of the season is ten days away, all the signs of summer are here: Most of our kids are now on their summer break, the days are warm and breezy, and grills have taken their place of prominence on our patios.

Michigan offers endless opportunities to make the most of summer—from fishing to farmers markets, from holiday fiestas to fun on the water—and more!

Did you take advantage of Michigan’s summer Free Fishing Weekend? This annual event was held last Saturday and Sunday, June 7-8. Each year, the weekend offers an outstanding opportunity for Michigan families and out-of-state visitors alike to get together and enjoy some of the world’s best fishing on both inland and Great Lakes waters. Summer in Michigan means great fishing.

Summer also means farmers markets across the state are kicking into high gear. Agriculture is one of our most important and thriving industries. Local growers, producers and even small winemakers reflect the industry’s vitality at farmers markets. I encourage you to visit some of these markets. The Oakland County Market is now open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. You may contact them at 248-858-5495 for more information.

Believe it or not, Fourth of July is just around the corner. Independence Day means more than cookouts and fireworks. It is good to take some time each July 4 to honor those who risked their lives to stand up to injustice and tyranny. One popular tradition is for communities and volunteers to place American flags on the graves of veterans as a tribute to our fallen heroes and in remembrance of the true cost of freedom. I encourage you to join with your community and celebrate the liberty we hold dear.

Perhaps you’ll be out boating and swimming in one of the Great Lakes this Fourth of July or enjoying one of our thousands of inland lakes. Michigan’s lakes are a treasure, and swimming in them is one of the joys of summer.

If you plan to spend time on the water this summer, I encourage you to take the necessary precautions to make it a safe and fun experience. Take swimming lessons, follow local safety guidelines and look out for powerful rip currents.

Whatever your plans for summer, I hope you make the most of what our great state has to offer.

Have a great Michigan summer!

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.