HUTCHISON: A special veteran


WASHINGTON – Active duty and military veterans have always had a prominent place in my Senate office.

On my staff today, there is more than 50 years' combined service. Military and veterans' affairs are extremely important to me, and having veterans on staff has helped to better address their needs and the needs of military families.

The same applies to other Congressional offices. The Army Congressional Fellowship program is dedicated to building strategic relationships between the armed forces and Congress, educating select officers, non-commissioned officers and civilians. A fellowship lasts for 24 months and includes both studying for a master's degree in legislative affairs at George Washington University and serving on the staff of a member of Congress. I am proud to have employed a military fellow throughout my 19 years in the Senate (including one, Dave Davis, who became my Legislative Director and Chief of Staff).

One of the newest Fellows has just been announced…and he is a Texan. I met Captain Lewis Larkin O'Hern III at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio. A West Point graduate and decorated war hero, Captain O'Hern served seven months as an infantry platoon leader in Afghanistan. He was wounded in 2010 by an IED, losing both legs and his right hand. Through his own hard work and exceptional medical care, Captain O'Hern is walking again, with the use of a cane.

Because Captain O'Hern showed a commitment to overcoming challenges and his personal strength, I recommended him to the Army Chief of Staff, General Ray Odierno, for a Congressional Fellowship. We both agree that Captain O'Hern will be an invaluable resource. Not only can he can speak directly to the challenges our wounded veterans face, he joins the other Fellows in bringing a first-hand account of the human cost of war to Capitol Hill. No government or elected official should vote on sending our sons and daughters to fight for our liberty without understanding exactly what we are asking them to do.

The expertise the Congressional Fellows bring to Washington is essential, and I am grateful that in continuing their educations, these men and women have chosen to continue to serve as well.

I give thanks every day to those who choose to go into harm's way to protect our freedom. Having them in my office helps me see their experience and value to our great country.

This column was written by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.