North Dakota’s deep patriotism is evident in the strong record of military service throughout the state. In North Dakota, the majority of the state’s more than 7,000 post-9/11 veterans have settled near U.S. Air Force bases in Minot and Grand Forks. Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our country, and Senator Heitkamp believes we need to make sure they get the support they deserve when they return home. Senator Heitkamp fights for our veterans, just as they fought for us.
Supporting Veterans’ Programs and Services
Senator Heitkamp has traveled across North Dakota to hear about challenges veterans face, learning what she can do to better support them. With so many young servicemembers who have recently returned from Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, Senator Heitkamp has worked to guarantee they have access to the health, education, and job support they deserve, so they have every opportunity to succeed.
In 2016, Senator Heitkamp successfully pushed for a five-day Vet Center in Grand Forks to help area veterans get the mental health services and support they deserve. Vet Centers help veterans readjust to civilian life by providing free counseling, screening, and referral services while removing the stigma of seeking mental health care.
In 2015, Senator Heitkamp reintroduced her bipartisan Connect with Veterans Act to better connect the nation’s new veterans with services, resources, and benefits that are available in their communities to help them transition back to civilian life. Currently, no mechanism exists for local governments and communities to interact directly with the 550 servicemembers who transition from military to civilian life across the country each day – and Senator Heitkamp’s bill aims to bridge that divide.
Since joining the U.S. Senate, Senator Heitkamp has sponsored a resolution each year to designate June as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. The resolution calls on the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense to further educate servicemembers, veterans, the families of service members and veterans, and the public about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of PTSD. This issue is one of the greatest challenges facing our brave men and women while they are serving and after they return home from duty. Senator Heitkamp believes we need to do all we can to educate our servicemembers and veterans, the military chain of command, and the public about PTSD to eliminate any stigma associated with this common injury and take steps to help those who are suffering.
Honoring North Dakotans Lost in Vietnam
As the nation honors veterans from the Vietnam War around the 50th anniversary of the conflict, Senator Heitkamp delivered a series of 15 speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate over the course of six months – sharing the stories of their lives, recognizing their sacrifice, and remembering the families they left behind. Senator Heitkamp has shared the stories of the more than 160 North Dakotans who did not return home from the Vietnam War.
Videos of Senator Heitkamp’s speeches are available on a web page she made for the project.
More than 150 Bismarck High School students worked with Senator Heitkamp to gather information and stories about the lives of North Dakota’s fallen. The collaboration not only taught the students about North Dakota’s proud tradition of military service and about American history, but also helped Senator Heitkamp give speeches paying tribute to some of our state’s heroes.
Connecting Native American Veterans with Services and Benefits
Native Americans serve in the armed forces at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. But for too many of North Dakota’s Native veterans, it can be difficult to access the services and benefits they deserve after bravely serving our country. To connect Native veterans across the state with resources and support, Senator Heitkamp has held Native American Veterans Summits to bring top officials and veterans together – and to guarantee veterans have access to the benefits they’re owed.
Senator Heitkamp’s summits at Turtle Mountain Community College in 2015 and at United Tribes Technical College in in Bismarck in 2014 provided venues for hundreds of Native veterans and local Veterans Service Officers to speak with officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and state agencies about persisting challenges. Attendees also visited more than a dozen booths to learn about housing programs, ongoing health care initiatives, and other benefits available to veterans.
After hosting the summits, Senator Heitkamp created a webpage to collect resources to help Native veterans in North Dakota based on the feedback she heard from them.
Senator Heitkamp's Recent Work for Veterans
|7/3/18||Heitkamp Interviews Filmmaker Ken Burns & North Dakota Vietnam Veteran Dan Stenvold for The Hotdish Episode on Honoring Service of Vietnam Veterans|