BY: Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – Dec. 2019
In recognition of Veterans Day, the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed two bills to support and honor our Veterans. I was privileged as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs to shepherd these bills through the Committee and bring them to the floor of the House.
The first bill is designed to support Veterans who are pursuing public higher education. With 2,500 Veterans currently enrolled at our state’s 29 public colleges and universities, public higher education is an important avenue through which many Veterans transition back into civilian life – yet many face deployment-related health conditions, like Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), that make success in the classroom significantly more challenging. Our student Veterans are in need of additional mental health resources to ensure their success.
The bill creates a program to train public higher education counselors on the symptoms of conditions like PTS, available resources for treating student Veterans, and common challenges faced by Veterans in higher education. This will create a stronger network of on-campus support, so our student Veterans are more likely to complete their education and transition into fulfilling civilian careers. The program will be developed and carried out by UMass Medical School, a collaboration that will yield cost savings and increase effectiveness.
The second bill will establish a commission to design a memorial in the State House for Deborah Sampson, a hero of the American Revolution who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army. I was proud to file this legislation with Rep. David Vieira of Falmouth.
Sampson is a remarkable example of the revolutionary spirit for which our state is famous. In 1782, Sampson used the name “Robert Shurtleff” to join the elite Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment at West Point, New York. Over the following year and a half, she participated in dangerous scouting missions, led a raid that brought about the capture of 15 Tory men, and stormed a British fort during the Siege of Yorktown.
Once while serving, Sampson removed the bullet from her own gunshot wound to avoid detection as a woman. Her identity was later discovered when she fell seriously ill and had to be taken to a hospital. On October 23, 1783, Sampson was honorably discharged and was the only woman to receive a full military pension for her participation in the Continental Army.
Sampson was held in high esteem by leading patriots, including John Hancock, Paul Revere, and President John Quincy Adams. Since 1983, she has been the official Massachusetts state heroine. Because of her historical significance and widespread renown, Sampson meets the very high bar for those who are worthy of being memorialized in the State House. Massachusetts students and all visitors to the State House should have the opportunity to learn about this historic woman Veteran who put her budding nation above all else. Hers is a Massachusetts story that deserves to be told far and wide.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature and serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380.◊