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Georgia congressman visits base

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | February 10, 2011

Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr. addressed a crowd of more than 200 Marines and their families during a town hall meeting at the Base Theater here, Friday.

Bishop, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Sub-committee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, wanted to hear directly from the Marines and their families about quality of life issues and other concerns associated with military life.

“I want these service members and their families to voice their concerns and share their ideas with me, as well as receive information that may be beneficial to their quality of life,” Bishop said.

Bishop, the founder and co-chair of the Military Family Caucus, said he wants to make sure Congress and his colleagues understand the issues that affect military families. “I am here today to meet with and listen to our military families and let them know I will do my best so they don’t have to be concerned about the welfare of their families when they deploy,” he said. “There are many issues that impact the military family, which are unique such as post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, family violence and the stress that comes with having family members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

During the town hall meeting, Bishop gave the Marines and their families an opportunity to voice their concerns about the challenges they face.

Topics discussed included the defense budget, quality education, spousal employment programs, health care issues, processing disability claims and more.

Cpl. Jonathan Simeon, temporary additional duty clerk, Military Personnel Branch, Manpower Division, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, was one of several Marines to speak directly to the congressman about his concerns.

“This was a unique experience and opportunity to voice my opinion to a congressman about issues I face as an active-duty Marine,” he said. “We all have a voice and if we don’t talk about our concerns, there will be no solutions. Every voice counts.”

Simeon said he enjoyed the congressman’s feedback and hoped he returns to MCLB Albany for another visit.

“I plan to take the information garnered in these town halls and share it with my colleagues so we can work in a bi-partisan fashion to improve the quality of life and address the needs and concerns of our brave men and women in uniform and their families,” Bishop said.

Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, said Bishop’s visit was very informative and he engaged the audience.

“Congressman Bishop’s visit was very important because it gave the Marines, sailors and their spouses the opportunity to hear firsthand how their civilian leadership at the federal level is looking out for them,” he said. “It also gave them the opportunity to voice their concerns in many different areas and get honest and frank answers.” According to Bishop, MCLB Albany is incredibly important.

“The base is not only crucial to our national defense, but it is vital to the strength of the Albany community and our local economy. Our community and our country is a better place because of the dedicated service of the Marines and families stationed here.”

MCLB Albany provides facilities infrastructure and a range of tailored support services for the Marine Corps as well as logistical support to combat operations across the globe.

“I hope the Marines and their families see that I deeply appreciate the sacrifices they make on behalf our country and that I am listening to them,” Bishop said. “I am committed to finding ways to make their lives easier and continue to improve benefits they receive.”

Bishop said it is his responsibility to make sure his colleagues understand the concerns and issues that impact military families. He vowed to take the issues and concerns voiced during the meeting back to Washington.

“It’s important because our service men and women need to know that their families are taken care of when they are away from home on deployments in service of our country,” he said.

The town hall meeting is the first of two for Bishop. The second, to be held at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., has yet to be scheduled.