Each year on Memorial Day, we pause to honor those who have served in our armed forces. We hold deep gratitude and admiration for the men and women who have risked everything for our safety, security, and health. For those who are no longer with us, we keep their memory alive by solemnly remembering their sacrifice. This year, service members have been called to the front lines to continue managing the COVID-19 pandemic and fighting the natural disasters threatening communities across our state.
In Washington, National Guard soldiers and airmen have continued to work alongside first responders to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Already this year, the Washington National Guard has been called to help alleviate staffing demands and offer testing capabilities at hospitals around the state as the omicron variant spread rapidly. Their duties included transportation, meal delivery, and supporting staff with clerical duties. Since March 2020, more than 2,500 Washington National Guard members have deployed in support of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Service members have also been called to support flood response to help save lives and mitigate property damage across the state.
Their invaluable work on these challenges further illustrates the importance of the service of men and women in uniform. We must honor all of those who answer the call to meet the needs of our nation and put their own health and safety on the line to protect us, whether from a deadly virus, devastating national disasters, or threats overseas.
We must also remember that service members and veterans always need our support. We have over 95,000 active duty members and almost 600,000 veterans in Washington state, many of whom have legal needs they don’t have the resources to solve. My office honors their service and sacrifices by vigorously enforcing the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and working to meet civil legal needs through our Office of Military & Veterans Legal Assistance (OMVLA).
Through the Military Engagement & Directed Advocacy by Lawyers (MEDAL) Program, OMVLA facilitates direct representation for military service members and veterans. The MEDAL Program receives requests for legal assistance and refers qualified requests to registered volunteer attorneys who can offer assistance with self-selected civil legal issues. This work relies on the generosity of volunteer attorneys and advocates willing to answer their own call to fight for our service members and veterans.
Just this year alone, the OMVLA has responded to over a hundred requests for legal assistance on issues ranging from family law to business law to consumer and property law to inquiries for assistance putting together wills. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to elevate the need for civil legal assistance, including for veterans and military service members.
In honor of their sacrifices, I encourage you to join this effort to support military service members and veterans as they have supported us, by volunteering your time to provide pro bono assistance to military service members and veterans.
Anyone interested in joining this effort can sign up to volunteer here: https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/VolunteerApplication.aspx.
I also invite you to join the “Basic Immigration Law for Veterans’ Advocates” that my office is hosting on June 7 in collaboration with the Veterans Training Support Center. The CLE will review immigration law issue-spotting and the special considerations for working with veterans and service members facing immigration issues. It will also provide Washington-specific immigration law resources from a community-centered perspective.
As a legal community, we can continue to honor the sacrifices made by our service members and veterans by stepping up to meet that need—and maybe we can begin to repay them for the support that they have so generously provided to us all.