Mike Gregoire, Washington’s very first, first gentleman, served in combat as a second lieutenant in Vietnam. Governor Chris Gregoire and First Mike are devoted advocates for Washington servicemen and servicewomen who not only protect our state and nation but provide essential disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

Washington is one of the few states where the number of veterans is increasing as men and women completing their service are permanently settling into a community. Governor Gregoire believes the best way to honor their service and sacrifice is to make the support of our military personnel, reservists and veterans a top priority.

Respecting Military Families

Governor Gregoire acknowledges our military men and women sacrifice valuable family time while deployed. That’s why during the 2008 legislative session, the Governor signed a bill into law that increases the amount of unpaid leave available to military families. During periods of military conflict, employees are now entitled to up to 15 days of unpaid leave either before their spouse is deployed or while their spouse is on leave from deployment. The law also increased the amount of unpaid leave time available to members of the Washington National Guard or Reserves from 15 days to 21 days.

Supporting our active military members

Governor Gregoire and First Mike in 2005 led a bipartisan team that successfully persuaded the federal Base Realignment Commission to keep the doors of Washington’s key military installations open. It was a major victory for our communities, our economy, and the men and women who serve this country and who call Washington home.

Governor Gregoire worked successfully with the 2006 Legislature to pass election reforms ensuring that Washington voters serving overseas will get their ballots in time to cast their vote. Beginning in 2007, our state’s primary elections and the deadline for mailing ballots to voters serving overseas were earlier in the year.

Honoring our veterans

Thanks to Governor Gregoire’s commitment to these issues, First Mike’s tireless lobbying, partnerships with veterans organizations and the support of the Legislature, Governor Gregoire’s administration has been one of the most productive in history for servicemen and servicewomen.

Changes made will help more Washington veterans access the benefits they have earned. The Governor in 2005 expanded the definition of “veteran” to include service members on active duty during Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now more veterans can receive certain pension and state benefits, including access to state veterans homes.

Governor Gregoire understands the unique challenges that servicemen and -women face when they return to civilian life. She created the Veterans Innovation Program that provides veterans who served in recent military action with crisis and emergency relief, as well as education, training and employment assistance.

Governor Gregoire also understands the difficulties that veterans and their families face when veterans become disabled as a result of their military service. That is why she supported the creation of a property tax grant program for widows and widowers of 100 percent, service-connected disabled veterans. She also supported legislation extending property tax exemptions to 100 percent, service-connected disabled veterans and is working with the Legislature to strengthen this law. In addition, she funded a new Veterans Resource Center to assist homeless veterans with job-finding skills and resources.

Veterans returning from extended deployments may return with physical or emotional scars that complicate their transition to civilian life. Governor Gregoire reaches out to each veteran upon completion of military service, offering her personal thanks and help connecting with benefits such as employment, health care or disability claims. Assistance is provided through an innovative partnership of state and federal agencies, local governments and the business community. This partnership has been heralded as a national model and other states are now creating similar programs.

Building a better future for Washington families

Washington veterans and active military personnel can count on Governor and Mike Gregoire for steadfast support and continued advocacy.

Her Committee on Disability Issues and Employment launched the “Hire a Hero” project to bring together representatives of private business and the military to facilitate successful transitions to civilian employment for our service men and -women leaving active duty. It has made a priority of creating better employment opportunities for disabled veterans.

Governor Gregoire believes that men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country deserve a fitting remembrance. She worked to both find a suitable location and funding for a veterans cemetery in Eastern Washington.

Governor Gregoire knows that those who serve our country in times of war and peace are making the ultimate sacrifice. Just as it is their duty to protect our country, it is ours to ensure their service is honored upon their return.

The Governor is committed to building and maintaining services that support our veterans as they return to their communities.