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Gov. Gregoire honored for supporting veterans

Lakewood Chamber of Commerce Military Veterans Committee hosts quarterly event paying tribute to Gregoire’s support of soldiers and veterans.

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Despite a challenging two-terms as the state's top leader, there remains a constant in Gov. Chris Gregoire's heart, and in her actions as the state governor.  A mission she was celebrated for Monday night in Lakewood - her support of the military and its veterans.

Gregoire stood among a diverse group of retired soldiers to receive a collage signed by veterans at the Great American Casino in Lakewood. The event, hosted by the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce's Military Veterans Committee, acknowledged her commitment to supporting the military and its veterans.

The Vietnam Veterans Association, members from the Department of Veteran Affairs and other groups stood and congratulated her efforts as well.

Knowing her 40-years of public service draws near the end, Gregoire said it might be her final opportunity to stand in front of veterans of several different American wars.

"It leaves me with mixed emotions," she said. "It's been a rich and rewarding experience."

One of Gregoire's goals entering public office was to ensure troops returning home were respected and honored. As a political decision-maker, she shepherded 91 pieces of legislation to support veterans and military servicemen, she said.

"My work in Washington state has been special to me," said Gregoire, who defeated Republican Dino Rossi in two consecutive political campaigns.

Gregoire has done much to aid veterans and military families. In December 2011, for example, she signed SB 5969 into law allowing military spouses to attain professional licenses in Washington state when that person is licensed in another state.

Washington became the 12th state to enact such a bill.

This year, she found enough money in the budget to establish a state veterans home in Walla Walla.

Tommy Carson, co-chair of the Military Veterans Committee - a group that meets weekly at Burs restaurant in Lakewood - said there's no other state he'd rather be a veteran than Washington state. A retired sgt. 1st class, he spent 10 years stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Gregoire's efforts to support the military and soldiers returning home began when she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington. As governor, she wanted  no soldier to return home feeling unappreciated.

"I didn't want to repeat what our country already did," she said, adding that soldiers coming home had to feel welcomed, respected and honored.

Everett Brown, a who served as a Marine from 1965-68, said being at the event and saluting his governor meant everything to him.

"Look all around," he said. "There are different faces, and different uniforms, but we're all Americans. It means a lot."

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