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Ron W.
Democrat OR

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  • Tribute to Jim Willis

    by Senator Ron Wyden

    Posted on 2013-02-12

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    WYDEN. Mr. President, on March 1, 2013, one of Oregon's most dedicated leaders will retire. I want to take a few minutes to pay tribute to a public servant and one of Oregon's foremost advocates for veterans, Jim Willis.

    Jim has worked selflessly to better the State and the nation. For 48 years, he has been helping others, from his two enlistments in the U.S. Air Force, including a tour of wartime service in South Vietnam, to a career with the Oregon State Police, to his time with the American Legion, and finally his leadership at the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, ODVA.

    After his service in Vietnam, Jim knew what it felt like to return home to a country where veterans were not always welcomed and at times forgotten. He understood the words of George Washington when he said, ``The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, is directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.'' This is why Jim championed funding for the Oregon Veterans' Home, pressed for veteran health care funding under the Federal VA system, increased financing limits on veterans' home loans, supported the construction of the Oregon Medal of Honor Memorial and Afghan-Iraqi Freedom Memorial, and initiated the construction of a second veterans home in Lebanon, Oregon.

    I cannot say enough about the distinguished efforts Jim has made over the last 23 years at ODVA on behalf of servicemembers and their families. With his direction, our heroes knew there were trained service officers in their county ready to assist them with benefits, home loans, and countless other issues. The trained professionals and the team he built at ODVA were always willing to help a veteran in a time of need. As President of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Jim coordinated these efforts nationally to assure veterans received what they worked so hard for.

    I am grateful to have had Jim as a partner in several endeavors at the Federal level, including the effort to put a halt to pension poachers who were stealing money and benefits from veterans under the guise of veterans' assistance.

    Even in retirement, Jim will continue to find ways to give back to the community. He will continue to serve on the American Legion National Cemetery Committee, on the Veteran of Foreign Wars National Resolutions Committee, and as Vice President of the Oregon World War II Memorial Foundation.

    I could not be prouder of Jim and his life's work. He embodies the best of Oregon and the best of a grateful nation. As our servicemembers continue to come home and reintegrate into society, I am confident the benefits and services they have earned will be available to them because of Jim and people like him. His dedication to veterans will continue to have a lasting impact on ODVA for years to come.

    Mr. President, I know Senator Merkley will be speaking after me to express his gratitude for Jim's many years of hard work. I'm proud to join my fellow Oregonians in recognizing the great service of Jim Willis and wishing him the best as he begins this new chapter in his life. Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I rise today to echo what my colleague Senator Wyden said in recognition of Jim Willis, a native Oregonian and one of Oregon's greatest champions for veterans and their families.

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