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UW-Madison sophomore and Army ROTC cadet Sydney Bobolz plants an American flag on the lawn of Bascom Hill last year as part of a Veterans Day program held by the Wisconsin Union and University Veteran Services in Madison.

We’re finishing an election season in which candidates of both parties went out of their way to identify themselves as champions of veterans. But as Veterans Day approaches, we’d like to see the winners deliver on all their promises.

How?

They could start by following the lead of retiring state Rep. Gary Hebl, a Dane County Democrat who has long been one of the Legislature’s most humane and knowledgeable advocates for vets.

Hebl has the right perspective.

“Veterans Day provides an opportunity for Americans to express our gratitude and to honor the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces, defending our country at home and abroad. To the American men and women in uniform, let me say thank you,” says the longtime legislator. “However, actions speak louder than words.”

Speeches and parades are great. But, Hebl says, “We have too many veterans who do not have access to proper support services, leaving them unemployed or even homeless. For the richest country in the world, this is unacceptable. We must do more for people who voluntarily put their lives on the line for our country. They make sacrifices for their country; their country should make sacrifices for them.”

As a legislator, Hebl has not just talked the talk. He has walked the walk by working with veterans’ organizations to provide sufficient psychological, emotional and financial resources for vets. One of his most innovative projects has been a push to increase the number of veterans who would qualify for additional retirement credits under the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Gary Hebl is leaving the Legislature with a record of watching out for veterans. The legislators who were elected on Tuesday need to pick up where he is leaving off and honor veterans with words AND deeds.

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