Parents of fallen Louisiana National Guardsmen presented a statue of appreciation to a state senator who had shepherded legislation that would provide death benefits for 32 families.
Judy Barnett, of Baker, said the statue of a soldier hugging Jesus was to remember the work state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, did over the past few years in getting the legislation approved.
Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday vetoed Senate Bill 1, which was sponsored by Adley, a frequent critic of the governor’s.
The same day Jindal signed House Bill 143, which had the same language but was sponsored by state Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, who supports the governor more often than Adley.
“We weren’t aware of Mr. Lorusso’s involvement until late,” said Barnett, of Gold Star Families of Louisiana, adding the award was not meant to diminish Lorusso’s work but to remember the many hours Adley put in on getting the legislation passed.
Though not a formally organized association, Gold Star Families of Louisiana is a group of parents whose children have been killed while serving in the military, Barnett said.
Barnett’s son, 1st Lt. Christopher Barnett, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded while his unit was patrolling the streets of Baghdad on Dec. 23, 2004, she said.
“Sen. Adley has worked with us since 2009 on this bill,” Barnett said with tears welling in her eyes. Legislative efforts to provide death benefits were defeated during previous sessions but passed overwhelmingly this year.
Adley said, “If it hadn’t been for these Gold Star moms, and their involvement, this bill wouldn’t have passed.”
Both Adley’s Senate Bill 1 and Lorusso’s House Bill 143 sought to correct a mistake that the Legislature made in 2007 when it created benefits for members of the Louisiana National Guard killed or permanently disabled in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The 2007 bill had omitted soldiers killed or injured between Sept. 11, 2001, and July 6, 2007. That amounted to about 32 families, Adley said.
HB143, now Act 406, pays $250,000 for deaths and $100,000 for permanent disabilities.
Adley said it did not matter whose bill was ultimately signed. “It appears to be a personal thing for Jindal,” Adley said.
The legislation focuses on Louisiana National Guardsmen because it is clear that state government is responsible for them, Adley said.
But now that bill has passed, Adley said he is looking next at legislation that would provide additional benefits for Louisiana servicemen in regular military units.