Veterans & Military

LETTER FROM CONAN HEIMDAL

My name is Conan Heimdal. In February of 2003 I was activated with the Utah National Guard in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and fought in the initial invasion period and first 14 months of that conflict. Three weeks into my deployment I was wounded in a terrorist attack upon the forward operating base in which I was stationed, and this earned me the distinction of the first Utah National Guardsman wounded in the Iraq War (definitely not something I had ever aspired to).

As I lay in the hospital gurney I was truly scared for the first time, scared of how I was going to be able to support my family in light of my new situation. I knew the college education I had begun was now absolutely essential as I could no longer count on being able to do physical labor to sustain my family (or even to help us while I worked to earn my degree). This was a weight that I carried, and it only increased as my deployment drew to a close.

As I returned home, and the initial euphoria of being reunited with loved ones waned, the realization of the daunting challenge I now faced was almost unbearable. It was at this point that a letter came to my home. It was a letter from the office of Utah Representative Greg Hughes; the letter informed me that during my deployment, Representative Hughes had sponsored legislation entitled the Purple Heart Tuition Waiver. This tuition waiver meant that I could return to school and that I no longer had to worry about how I was going get the money needed to obtain this crucial tool in providing for my dear family.

The letter then thanked me for my service to this country and then Rep. Hughes wrote that he hoped that this would be a help to me, and that if there was ever something I needed that he could help with, that he would gladly help me any way he could.

I was so thankful that it brought me to tears. The personal offer of help was very nice. Living in Springville and not in his district, I didn’t know how he could ever help me more than he already had done. I was wrong. A while back I was preparing to interview for a very important job (not just a job, but THE job. A career) I was nervous, I needed a reference. And of all the people I knew who would be the best to use for this job? Greg and I had corresponded through the years as he was always interested to
see how I was doing (being one of the first to utilize the legislation he had been key in bringing about).

As I thought about it, I thought I would reach out to him and ask if I could use him as a reference. I sent a message to him via Facebook and asked him if he might be willing, and I would like to share his exact response with you.

‘Conan! I’m sorry I haven’t responded sooner but I just saw your message. You can ALWAYS list me as a reference whenever it is helpful. I have enjoyed seeing you over the years and appreciate the personal sacrifice you have rendered for me, my family, and this country. Anything you ever need, just mention it! Rep. Greg Hughes.’

He then listed all his contact information, home address, as well as his personal cell phone number. He didn’t have to do it; there was nothing really in it for him. But I have come to see and know something about this man and that is when it comes to people (and especially veterans) he shows unwavering support.

He may be in politics, but he is not what people think of when they think of a politician. He is a gentleman, and gentlemen say what they mean, and mean what they say. He is my friend.”

-Conan Heimdal

Veterans & Military Issues:

I couldn’t agree more with the thoughts of T.J. Oshie when, after scoring the winning goal in a never-ending shootout in the Olympic hockey match against Russia, he responded to being called a hero by saying, “The American heroes are wearing camo. That’s not me.”

I have spent my years in the legislature running bills that reflect the gratitude and respect that we, as citizens, feel for our military men and women. They give so much to protect our freedoms and we should do all that we can to provide opportunity for them and their families when they return home, as well as take care of them when they are in need of assistance. Below I have outlined just a few of the bills that I’ve sponsored to show my gratitude for the service of our men and women in the military:

  • Veterans affairs in the state of Utah used to be under the National guard. My legislation changed that, making Veterans Affairs a cabinet level department in the state.

  • The Department of Veterans’ Affairs was changed to the Department of Veterans’ and Military Affairs, allowing for more involvement and interaction from Hill Air Force Base.
  • A tuition waiver to any state institution of higher learning was instituted for anyone who has received a purple heart as a result of military service.
  • The Scott B. Lundell Tuition Waiver for National Guard Members’ Surviving Dependents provides free college tuition at any state institution of higher learning for Utah resident dependents of a Guard member killed on active duty.

  • Property tax exemption for disabled veterans, or the dependents of military members killed while serving our country, was instituted.
  • An adjustment was made to the disabled veterans’ property tax deduction, which allows the amount of the deduction to increase as property values and inflation increase. This bill also creates an assumption of citizenship for all military veterans, leading to a decrease in the amount of paperwork needed in order to take advantage of this deduction.
  • The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which allows for a more seamless school transition for military children as they move from state to state.
  • A requirement that Utah National Guard pay be on par with their federal counterparts.
  • A resolution supporting a veterans freedom memorial in the state.
  • Three veterans nursing homes were built using a method never before utilized. At the time Utah was in need of a veterans nursing home and had surplus finances to build one, the line for matching federal funding was long. I was able to work with Rob Bishop to get the VA to agree that if Utah were to build the facility with all of its own money, we would be reimbursed the federal portion at the time our turn came up. This strategy allowed us to build a home in Ogden. When the federal money was refunded to the state, we were able to use those funds to build in Provo and then St. George, at a time when the state wouldn’t have had the additional money otherwise. Click here for HB 492. Click here for HB 493.