Ted Kulongoski will announce in the coming weeks the appointment of Tribal Elder Gene LaBonte to the Advisory Committee to the Director of the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs, according to Veterans' Affairs Director Jim Willis.
, 66, will be the first Native American appointed to the committee, Willis
said.Service on the nine-member committee is limited to two four-year terms and requires attendance at four meetings annually - in March, June, September and December.
"He'll also be called on to attend various events - legislative hearings or veteran meetings - in lieu of the director and/or the governor," Willis
will be installed at a March 19 ceremony in Salem.
"Because the committee is advisory in nature, committee members will advise the director about issues they become aware of.In Gene's case, (particularly) about Native American issues," Willis
said.Willis has worked with LaBonte since 2000.
"I found him to be a person who understands the great dignity and honor that we hold vets in in the state," Willis
a strong leader in Native American veteran's affairs, through NIVA
, the Northwest Indian Veterans Association
..."Every time I ever asked him to do anything," said Willis of LaBonte, "he was there.
According to Willis
will be dealing with issues confronting veterans everywhere: a GI bill for the 21st century, updated from the version passed for World War II veterans; health care; education; housing and employment.
"The focus, of course, is for the young men and women coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan," Willis