U.S. Rep. Ron Kind today offered three amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act in support of military personnel, specifically those members of the armed forces from Wisconsin. The amendments include provisions to permit the Wisconsin REACT Center to expand programming, compensate National Guard troops for miscalculated leave time, and posthumously award Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing the Medal of Honor. All of the amendments passed.
"Our service members, veterans, and their families deserve the best we have to offer," said Rep. Kind. "That means support for their training, fair treatment and compensation, and awarding them the respect they deserve. I'm proud to honor the nation's best with these amendments."
Wisconsin REACT Center: The House of Representatives today approved an amendment to the NDAA, offered by Rep. Kind, which permits the National Guard and federal agencies performing homeland defense activities to directly contract with the Wisconsin REACT Center at Volk Field for training purposes. Upon being able to train more agencies, the Wisconsin REACT Center will be able to expand their training program, creating seven full-time positions and approximately 46 part-time positions.
"Providing our National Guard units and public service employees with increased opportunities to train at the Wisconsin REACT Center is just plain commonsense," said Rep. Kind. "It's a win for the military and service personnel who will be better prepared to safely work in the field and a win for the community, who will see local job creation."
"With this bill, The REACT Center will be able to fully support the National Guard in its rapidly evolving mission as a critical response partner in domestic emergency operations," said Brian Satula, Administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management. "The REACT Center teams the nation's civilian responders with our National Guard, ultimately preparing both to respond to incidents of national importance as one."
Fair Military Leave Act: The House of Representatives today approved an amendment to the NDAA, offered by Rep. Kind and Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), to compensate National Guard troops for miscalculated leave time. The amendment corrects a government error to pay approximately 575 Army National Guard troops for leave time they earned but were unable to take after their last deployment.
Twelve guardsmen in western Wisconsin and a total of 80 in the state will benefit from this correction. On average, each soldier will receive $5100 in compensation for leave time they earned, but were previously denied. The amendment incorporates H.R. 3863, the Fair Military Leave Act, which Rep. Kind introduced along with Rep. Tom Petri earlier this year. Senator Herb Kohl has also introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
"These soldiers have spent time overseas defending our great nation -- some in multiple deployments - and have earned their leave benefits," said Rep. Kind. "I will do everything I can to make sure that they receive what they are entitled to."
Alonzo Cushing Medal of Honor: The House of Representatives today approved an amendment to the NDAA, offered by Rep. Kind and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), to waive the time requirement on posthumously awarding the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing.
Cushing was born in Delafield, Wis., heroically fought in the Civil War, and died during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. He is best remembered for his actions on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, in which he helped turn the tide during Pickett's Charge. On the third day of battle, July 3, 1863, Cushing commanded 110 men and six cannons positioned on Cemetery Ridge. They received the full force of Confederate artillery and Pickett's Charge of 13,000 infantry. Within just a few hours, all of his officers had been killed and he wounded, though he refused to withdraw from the field. He continued to fight, though he was wounded twice more, before he was ultimately killed. Today we remain one nation because of his ultimate sacrifice.
Alonzo Cushing has long passed the required time to be awarded the Medal of Honor. During the Civil War, Medals of Honor were rarely awarded posthumously, and there is now a time limitation on awarding the medal. The only way to bypass this is through an act of Congressional approval to waive the time limitation, followed by the approval of the President. With the passage of this amendment, the award will go to the President's desk for approval.
"It's an honor to be able to take the final steps to award Lieutenant Cushing the medal he so deserves," said Rep. Kind. "On the eve of Memorial Day, it's never too late to respect and honor our fallen heroes."
The Sons of Veterans of the Civil War were instrumental in helping move this forward. In addition, Senator Kohl introduced companion legislation in the Senate this spring.