MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's only four-star Army general spoke from the heart as he stood on the floor of the State House and addressed the legislature.
General Gus Perna, commanding general of the Army Materiel Command on Redstone Arsenal, went before lawmakers in Montgomery for Military Appreciation Day on Thursday.
He recognized Alabama's five military installations, as well as the members of the Armed Forces and civilians who support national defense.
Perna also thanked the 350,000 veterans who live in Alabama for their service and dedication.
"I think it's just absolutely wonderful. The sons and daughters of this state, along with the veterans of all the states that have served in the military in previous wars, currents wars, future wars. It's great to be appreciated. It was an honor to represent everyone today," Gen. Perna said to members of the press after his speech.
He discussed his family's love for Alabama. When he retires, they plan to stay in Alabama after 21 moves in the military. He said the support from the community, as well as local and state officials make all the difference to Alabamians who are serving their country.
"It's powerful that we are in their focus but it's more than words, it's action," stated Perna, the highest-ranking military officer in the state/
He also stressed the important work the Army Materiel Command is doing to provide soldiers with the tools and equipment they need.
"The responsibilities for our Army are significant right now," he added.
As Governor Kay Ivey designated Thursday "Military Appreciation Day," the Alabama Senate also passed five bills to support military veterans, including the Parks for Patriots Act which will give Alabama military veterans free access to state parks.
"More than 50,000 Alabamians serve in the military or work as employees of the Department of Defense, and it is appropriate and right that we honor their heroism and service," Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) stated. "Veterans from Alabama have fought honorably in numerous wars, defending this nation from Nazi fascists and now, radical Islamic terrorists."
In addition to the Parks for Patriots Act, the Senate approved a tax credit for small businesses that hire unemployed veterans, created a voluntary contribution check-off on income tax returns for the Alabama State Veterans Cemetery at Spanish Fort, added Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who own businesses to the preferred vendor list for state contracts, and passed a bill that would make it illegal to park a vehicle in spaces reserved for military veterans.
"Like all Alabamians, I am thankful for the service of our retired and active military service members," Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said. "I am grateful for the opportunity the Legislature has to support the men and women who wear the uniform and serve Alabama and our nation so well."
Since September 11, 2011, more than 25,000 Alabama National Guard soldiers and airmen have deployed, and approximately 1,000 are currently deployed.
Nine of Alabama's thirty-four State Senators are military veterans.
Thursday concluded the twelfth day of the 2018 session. The state constitution allots the Legislature thirty days to complete each legislative session.
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