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Mike Prendergast: Duty, honor and country

America’s veterans understand the meaning of those hallowed words like no other group of citizens in this country.

Now more than ever, it is every Floridian’s responsibility to ensure that our state’s returning veterans and their family members know that we have their back, and we thank them for their personal sacrifices and their selfless service.

We are less than a week away from one of the most important elections in a generation. Early voting is in full swing and absentee ballots are flowing back into the offices of every Supervisor of Elections in our great state.

On this ballot, voters across the state of Florida will have an epic opportunity to ensure that they protect our veterans and thank them for their service in a way that has never been done before in our state’s history.

A “yes” vote on Amendment 10 will ensure that the needs of our military members are always supported and that the priceless service of our veterans is never forgotten.

Florida is home to the nation’s third largest population of veterans, with more than one-half of our veterans having served in combat. I write today to stress the importance of Amendment 10, the “Protection Amendment.”

No matter when they served and no matter where they served, Florida’s veterans return home to the most welcoming state in our nation. That status could be in jeopardy if we don’t protect them by voting in favor of Amendment 10.

As it stands right now, there is no statute requiring the legislature to retain our Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. So, on Nov. 6, we need to overwhelmingly pass Amendment 10 to show our support and thanks to our veterans.

Passage of Amendment 10 will ensure that our state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) will be a permanent part of our state government’s structure. This agency (FDVA) is the essential conduit for every veteran in Florida to get access to their earned services and benefits.

These benefits range from transition back to civilian life, to health care, to education, to employment and many others. In sum, by having a nationally recognized and award-winning agency known as the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, this vital link between our veterans and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can be preserved and protected.

I urge you to vote “Yes” on Amendment 10 to protect our veterans.

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Colonel Mike Prendergast served on active duty for more than 31 years as a United States Army Military Policeman and U.S. Paratrooper, to include multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also served for five years as the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. He continues his service today as the Sheriff of Citrus County.

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