Our state has a deep-rooted history of patriotism and sacrifice. In World War II, nearly 10% of our population at the time served our country in the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
More than 3,500 were killed as a result of combat.
Arkansans continued to answer the call to serve. 461 Arkansans lost their lives in the Korean War. 592 died in Vietnam. We lost 4 of our own in Desert Storm. More than 90 Arkansans died while serving in either Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn.
On Memorial Day, we will pay tribute to these heroes, whose courageous spirit continues to inspire generations. Regardless of our differences, Memorial Day unites us in a common purpose, to honor the memory of our fallen and express gratitude for the liberty they fought to protect.
We can honor their memory by gathering at parades and memorials and by sharing their stories of bravery.
We can also recognize their sacrifice by taking care of their comrades who served. The Arkansas General Assembly has worked to support military families and veterans year-round. In 2017, the General Assembly exempted military retirement benefits from state income tax. This year, we expanded school choice options for military families and passed legislation designed to remove more red tape from the occupational licensing process for military members and their families.
We also passed legislation seeking to have veteran disability benefits excluded as income for eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by directing DHS to seek a federal waiver.
In addition, we established June 12 as Women's Veterans Day in Arkansas.
Our work to improve the lives of our military families and veterans will continue.
The Gold Star Family Memorial Monument is located directly behind our State Capitol and reminds us daily here at the Capitol of the Arkansas families who sacrificed more than most.
Our hearts are with them this weekend. May we all live lives worthy of their sacrifice.