Friday, October 5, 2018

OEF OIF Marine Veteran Finally Feels Like One

New state law opens up benefits to an estimated 800 veterans
The Day
by Julia Bergman Day staff writer
October 4, 2018

Hartford — Thomas Burke has been out of the Marine Corps for 10 years but said it wasn't until this week that he felt like a veteran.

Burke, a former infantryman who deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, received an other-than-honorable discharge for smoking marijuana months after returning from a deployment in Afghanistan, during which he had to clean up the remains of a group of Afghan children who'd been blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade that they were bringing to his military base.

"I can't explain the feelings I have today, after 10 years of service from returning home, I finally feel like a veteran because Connecticut stood up and told me that I'm a veteran," Burke said Thursday.

A new state law that went into effect Monday allows veterans discharged under "other-than-honorable" circumstances, who have post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury or sexual trauma resulting from their military service, to access state veteran benefits.

State officials and veterans touted the new law at a news conference Thursday morning in Hartford. Several of them said that the law, the first of its kind, makes Connecticut a leader in the nation.
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