While the Kansas Legislature ended its annual session a week before Memorial Day, efforts to honor veterans were among the bills passed in Topeka in 2022.
Memorials, license plates and other commemorations were signed into law by Gov. Laura Kelly, as well as an effort to give veterans a tax break.
Visitors to the Statehouse will soon be able to honor Gold Star families, or those who have lost a family member in the line of military duty
SB 330 authorized the construction of a memorial honoring Kansas Gold Star families. It passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed by the governor.
The Capitol Preservation Committee is tasked with approving plans for a permanent memorial on Statehouse grounds. The monument will be on the Veterans' Walk along the sidewalk at the southwest entrance.
Public funds cannot be used for the project, which will depend on gifts and other funding.
Kansas one of few state capitals without Gold Star memorial
Perry Wiggins, the executive director of the Governor's Military Council, told lawmakers that Kansas is one of only a few statehouses without such a memorial. He said "it is our moral obligation to recognize and support our Gold Star Families today."
"Sadly, as a commander I have had to knock on a door to deliver the tragic news of a fallen loved one and have executed one of our nation’s most sacred duties and honored a fallen comrade by presenting a loved one on bended knee our nation’s folded flag on behalf of a grateful nation," Wiggin testified. "It was through these types of experiences that I gained a true realization and appreciation for the incredible debt we owe our families of the fallen."
The governor's office directed Wiggins to explore the monument process after Hershel "Woody" Williams, a retired Marine Corps warrant officer and the only living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, personally asked Gov. Laura Kelly to add a memorial.
Veterans who won either a Bronze Star or Silver Star will now be able to obtain a license plate commemorating that honor, with lawmakers overwhelmingly approving the creation of the new tags.
Vietnam veteran Larry Joe Powell told the House Transportation Committee he was awarded a Bronze Star for valor during an attack on his division while serving as a "road runner," charged with obtaining intelligence and guarding convoys.
Previously, he said the ability to recognize the honor was limited in Kansas, when compared with other states.
"Every one of my squad has some sort of commemorative license plates from different states denoting purple hearts, Vietnam veterans and bronze stars," he said. "It is a form of healing and pride in our nation."
Disabled veterans in Kansas will receive additional tax relief
And disabled veterans will now be able to get slightly more in tax relief than they would have previously.
Under a clause in a sweeping tax bill signed by Kelly and passed with broad bipartisan support, disabled veterans age 65 and older who make less than $50,000 a year would be eligible.
And all veterans who are 100% disabled will be eligible for an additional personal income tax exemption of $2,250, beginning in the next tax year.
Jason Tidd is a statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Tidd.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas veterans honored with Statehouse memorial, license plates