THE BLOG
09/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What You Missed at the VFW Convention Yesterday

Yesterday morning, I had the honor of addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Orlando, Florida. (You might not have gotten the chance to see me speak -- a couple of famous folks also stopped by.)

I was very proud to be there, and to meet a room full of veterans of all generations, going back to World War II and Korea. These brave warriors remember not only the beaches of Normandy, but also a time when Americans made sure that troops coming home from war got a fair chance at a first-class future. Thanks to the original GI Bill, the World War II generation had their educations paid for, whether they went to Harvard or flight school.

The World War II generation included some of our strongest supporters in the fight for a new GI Bill, and the VFW has been one of IAVA's major allies in Washington. Together, we ensured today's veterans would get the same opportunities afforded to the Greatest Generation. Thanks to the new GI Bill, hundreds of thousands of troops sitting in Humvees and walking the streets of Iraq can afford to dream bigger dreams.

We are very proud of what we achieved -- but now it's time to take the next step.

As part of my remarks yesterday, I announced IAVA's relaunch of www.GIBill2008.org. The website, which served as a critical hub of online activism during our fight for the new GI Bill, is now a resource center for veterans and members of the military to learn about their hard-earned education benefits.

Starting this week, www.GIBill2008.org will provide America's newest generation of veterans with the tools they need to access the new GI Bill. It includes an interactive benefits calculator based on your zip code, answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and the latest news and information about the new GI Bill as it goes into effect.

The GI Bill became such a hot issue this year that every single major Presidential candidate spoke about it. Some deserve more credit than others. But our victory will not mean a thing if Iraq and Afghanistan veterans do not use their new benefit. IAVA has begun extensive community outreach with ads in newspapers across the country, urging veterans to visit www.GIBill2008.org.

You can help -- check out the site and tell your friends and family. It may not always be obvious, but the Iraq War has touched every community in this country -- help make sure the veterans you know, learn about their benefits.

P.S. IAVA is auctioning off two Tampa Bay Buccaneers season tickets to benefit the family of Spc. Raymond Boutwell, a decorated Army National Guardsman who served in Iraq with the 3ID and was shot and killed in Pensacola earlier this summer. Ray is survived by his longtime girlfriend, who is pregnant with their first child due later this year.

The tickets were graciously donated to us by one of Ray's fellow soldiers, and IAVA will donate all proceeds from the auction to a fund for Ray's girlfriend and their unborn child. Thank you for your support and please keep Ray and his family in your thoughts and prayers.