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Veterans Have Their Day in Legislature

As a kickoff to Veterans Week, veterans took on the role of senators and legislative staff in Monday’s mock session at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas. They spent more than two hours discussing a bill concerning burial benefits for veterans.

“The debate was a high-level debate on issues concerning veterans and the community,” Senate President Ronald Russell said, adding that it concerned how the territory spends money and why.

After those veterans who took places as senators and staff were done with the bill, each had a chance to say a few words.

Kayyon Harley, who had the role of timekeeper, was moved to tears as she spoke about homeless veterans who can’t even buy items needed for personal hygiene.

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“Employers – hire veterans first,” she urged.

A U.S. Army veteran, she serves as the local veteran representative at the Labor Department.

Irma George, who assumed the role of Sen. Janette Millin-Young, urged the senators to address the issue of where to bury veterans. Space is tight on St. Thomas, she said, and an area set aside at Eastern Cemetery needs to have rocks blasted away to make it usable.

Several of those who had roles as senators spoke about how challenging it was to do the job.

“I have a deeper appreciation for what you all do. It’s not as simple as it looks on TV or in the movies,” veteran Skip Williams said.

Williams took on Russell’s role and guided his fellow veterans in procedures. Like meetings and sessions attended by elected senators, this one was a tad chaotic at times. And like actual meetings, the veterans-turned-senators grilled their colleagues.

“Where’s the money coming from and how much is in the fund,” said Jennie Lambert, who had the role of Sen. Celestino White—and like the senator she didn’t pull any punches.

Under her questioning, it turned out the veterans’ burial fund has only $3,500 in it. That’s the amount currently allocated per veteran for burials, which means there’s only enough to bury one veteran. The mock senators agreed to order an audit of the fund to make sure that was the correct amount.

Monique George, who works in Sen. Alvin Williams’s office and assumed his role, had offered a mock amendment to raise the figure to $6,000. The senators agreed to table it until the audit is done.

The debate included discussion on whether veterans born elsewhere who died in the Virgin Islands as well as those born in the Virgin Island but who die on the mainland should get the death benefit.

“We are all veterans. It doesn’t matter where we entered or what service,” Selina Fahie said, receiving a round of applause for her remarks.

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As a kickoff to Veterans Week, veterans took on the role of senators and legislative staff in Monday’s mock session at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas. They spent more than two hours discussing a bill concerning burial benefits for veterans.

“The debate was a high-level debate on issues concerning veterans and the community,” Senate President Ronald Russell said, adding that it concerned how the territory spends money and why.

After those veterans who took places as senators and staff were done with the bill, each had a chance to say a few words.

Kayyon Harley, who had the role of timekeeper, was moved to tears as she spoke about homeless veterans who can’t even buy items needed for personal hygiene.

“Employers – hire veterans first,” she urged.

A U.S. Army veteran, she serves as the local veteran representative at the Labor Department.

Irma George, who assumed the role of Sen. Janette Millin-Young, urged the senators to address the issue of where to bury veterans. Space is tight on St. Thomas, she said, and an area set aside at Eastern Cemetery needs to have rocks blasted away to make it usable.

Several of those who had roles as senators spoke about how challenging it was to do the job.

“I have a deeper appreciation for what you all do. It’s not as simple as it looks on TV or in the movies,” veteran Skip Williams said.

Williams took on Russell’s role and guided his fellow veterans in procedures. Like meetings and sessions attended by elected senators, this one was a tad chaotic at times. And like actual meetings, the veterans-turned-senators grilled their colleagues.

“Where’s the money coming from and how much is in the fund,” said Jennie Lambert, who had the role of Sen. Celestino White—and like the senator she didn’t pull any punches.

Under her questioning, it turned out the veterans’ burial fund has only $3,500 in it. That’s the amount currently allocated per veteran for burials, which means there’s only enough to bury one veteran. The mock senators agreed to order an audit of the fund to make sure that was the correct amount.

Monique George, who works in Sen. Alvin Williams’s office and assumed his role, had offered a mock amendment to raise the figure to $6,000. The senators agreed to table it until the audit is done.

The debate included discussion on whether veterans born elsewhere who died in the Virgin Islands as well as those born in the Virgin Island but who die on the mainland should get the death benefit.

“We are all veterans. It doesn’t matter where we entered or what service,” Selina Fahie said, receiving a round of applause for her remarks.