Senator Frank L. Madla, chair, questions a witness during today's hearing at the State Capitol.
KILLEEN--The Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations met Tuesday, March, 21, 2000, at the City Council Chambers in Killeen. Committee members include Senators Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, serving as chair, Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez was a special guest and also gave an invocation for the meeting.
The committee heard invited testimony from a variety of individuals. Testimony focused on development strategies for extending higher education to the soldiers of Fort Hood, as well as housing and quality of life issues. Witnesses also spoke on improving highway infrastructure to improve the strategic route for deploying soldiers and vehicles. The hottest topic of the day was the possibility of Fort Hood having its own cemetery.
The hearing started with invited testimony from Lieutenant General Leon J. LaPorte, U.S. Army, Commander III Corps. His opening remarks included "shaping the international environment through peace". He then discussed the issue of bringing quality higher education to his soldiers through extension centers. He also spoke on highway safety and construction, most notably on State Highway 195. He and others at the post have advised their soldiers to use alternate routes. Since 1998 fatalities have fallen from 14 to 3 in 1999, with no fatalities in the year 2000. He said highway construction is needed on State Highway 195 for quicker deployment of soldiers and vehicles.
Colonel Dave Hall, U.S. Army, Fort Hood Garrison Commander, spoke on higher education issues concerning his troops. He said in this day and age "every soldier needs to be a student". His main topics centered on in-state tuition and the various fees paid by the soldiers. It is harder for a soldier to keep his residency status if he goes abroad, therefore he wants the restrictions relaxed. Hall asked if some fees paid by the soldiers could be waived because, the soldiers go to the post for health concerns and other general items.
John Ferrier, of the Central Texas Veterans Coalition, expressed his interest in a Veteran's Cemetery at Fort Hood. He says "since there are over 1 million veterans in Texas, that should be incentive enough to get a cemetery". Fort Hood has donated the land and the Veterans Administration would purchase the land for this project if it was approved by the state. He feels the committee could find the funds for equipment and salaries and also expressed the state would just be in charge of the upkeep.
Public testimony was taken mainly on the topic of procuring a cemetery for veterans. The committee stands in recess subject to the call of the chair.