CUYAHOGA COUNTY -- On a day to honor and remember those who serve their country, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced another in a series of veteran-friendly initiatives.
The county will copy a plan already being used by Franklin and Stark Counties, issuing official ID's for veterans to prove their military service and status.
The cards would be honored by businesses that give discounts, prospective employers, colleges and government agencies that service veterans.
The cards would be simpler and more convenient than the multiple sheets of paper veterans now must produce to show their discharge, forms known by their number, DD214.
"It's not just a parade one or two days a year. It's how do you make sure when someone comes back from military service that they are really brought back into the mainstream of society. You dont just say 'welcome back,' but 'you're hired and how can we help you with medical caree and housing'? I just think it's a fundamental function of government including county government," FitzGerald said.
Retirees like Rick DeChant, who heads up veterans' programs for TRI-C, get an ID card if they've served 20 years. But most veterans don't.
"The beauty of this card is its simplicity, ease of access and ability to serve on a moment's notice," he said.
The Veterans Administration is on board. The county will educate other agencies and businesses about the program.
"It makes it much easier to enroll in different programs and to prove veterans' status anywhere in the country," said Kim Robertson, acting associate director of the Stokes V-A Medical center.
Cuyahoga County Council has several veterans. Council and its President C. Ellen Connally, who is expected to seek FitzGerald's County Executive position, are saluting the idea.
"Anything we can do for our veterans is a positive for our community," she said.
Cuyahoga County has about 90,000 veterans. Ohio has almost 900,000 veterans.
And since all FitzGerald's proposals must be seen as coming from a governor's candidate, this would be a plus with that big group of voters.
The cards will be available through the Cuyahoga County Recorder's office in 30 to 60 days. A $1 fee can be waived for veterans with hardships.