Senator Murkowski E-Newsletter for the week of May 23, 2014

Hello, Alaska!

Greetings from Washington, DC, where I have been busy with Alaska-related events and hearings, many of you have come through town to visit and catch up with me on the latest news and developments back home.

Though I was back in Alaska for Mother’s Day weekend, I am looking forward to Memorial Day week when the Senate’s schedule will allow me to visit more areas of the state.  But most of all, the Memorial Day events will be an opportunity for us as a community to thank those in our armed forces who have sacrificed to protect our liberty.

Tanana Tragedy

We are still mourning the loss of two brave Alaska State Troopers, Sergeant Patrick “Scott” Johnson and Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich, who were killed in the line of duty in Tanana.  Shortly after the tragedy, I spoke on the United States Senate floor to pay tribute to their service and memory.  In Fairbanks, I attended their memorial service and upon my return to Washington, D.C., they were on my mind and in my heart as I spoke at the National Law Enforcement Officers Candlelight vigil.  At the vigil, I shared the names of the Alaska peace officers who have lost their lives in the last year keeping us safe: Thomas Madole and Tage Toll.

I think it’s vital not only to remember how they lost their lives and the valor they demonstrated, but the energy with which they lived and loved in the time we Alaskans were able to share with them.

(Click the image to hear my thoughts about our fallen Alaska State Troopers)

(It was truly an honor to participate in the candlelight vigil remembering fallen peace officers from around the nation.  The picture above is of me reading the names of Alaska peace officers whose names will be added to the memorial wall in Washington, D.C. Below is the amazing sight of thousands of candles lit to honor our officers  It’s reported that 25,000 people attended to pay their respects.)

Protecting Our Veterans

When men and women come back home from serving our country, this nation owes them our gratitude.  We also owe them care for the wounds they have suffered protecting our nation – whether they be physical or mental.

It’s deeply troubling and unacceptable that America loses 22 veterans each day to suicide, which is why I co-sponsored the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act of 2014.  This bipartisan legislation would help America’s soldiers address the continuing toll of repeated deployments – by expanding care and eliminating red tape that keeps them from the relief they need.

Like all Alaskans, I am also disturbed about the nationwide scandal within the Veterans Administration: VA locations in Indiana, Colorado and Texas are being accused of keeping ‘secret waiting lists’ to manipulate their statistics and inflate their accomplishments.  I have contacted VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki to find out if this fraud is happening in Alaska. (Click here to read my letter.) The men and women who have served our country deserve far better; in fact, they deserve the best.  We must protect the people who put their lives on the line protecting us.

(It was a pleasure to meet with meet members of the Last Frontier Honor Flight when they came to Capitol Hill – and an honor to meet our veterans of World War II and the Korean Conflict.

Protecting Alaska’s Heritage

Did you know that dozens of languages being spoken by Alaska Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians are endangered, with some estimates saying that there will soon only be twenty languages instead of the hundreds once spoken?

We must do what we can to sustain these links to our First People’s past and proud traditions.  If Native languages are not passed to the next generation, the richness of our native cultures are at risk. We must be doing all that we can, whether it be within our public schools, our universities, our Native institutions, or at home.

That’s why I joined Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) recently to introduce legislation to fund and maintain the Native American languages grant program guided by the Health and Human Services Administration for Native Americans through 2019.  Click here for more information.

Buliding Arctic Momentum

If there is one thing that people on Capitol Hill know is on my mind day in and day out, it is that America must step up our game and invest in an Arctic future for our nation.  As the rest of the world builds, invests and engages with the region, the United States seems to be stuck in neutral.  We are not seizing the new opportunities opening up in the Arctic.

That’s why I was very happy to recently hear from the Pentagon that they are ramping up their research in the Arctic Circle so that they can be ready when America shifts into drive and moves forward with an Arctic agenda.  In a recent Senate hearing, I talked with the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Dr. Arati Prabhakar, and she was enthusiastic about their Assured Arctic Awareness initiative.  Both the DARPA Director and the Director of Naval Research told me how invested they want to be in building a solid knowledge base as America begins to make plans in the north.

(It was great to hear excitement about America’s Arctic opportunities from a Pentagon researcher.  Click the picture to watch Senate testimony.)


Loving to Read

I love reading.  Exploring the world of new ideas through books has been one of my favorite hobbies since I first learned to read. As a mom, I would read to my sons every chance I got.  As a Senator, I’ve been able to work with the Library of Congress to donate thousands of books to schools, libraries and non-profits across Alaska.

Last week was National Book Week, and I broke the 9,500 mark for books distributed to young Alaskans.  I feel truly fortunate and blessed that I’m in a position to help foster a love for the written word. 

(You’re welcome, Peterson Elementary School in Kodiak!)


Out and About

This past weekend I was proud to participate in the Young Faces of ALS Corntoss challenge, a great way to support research efforts to find a cure for Lou Gehrig ’s disease and have a little fun along the way.  There were dozens of teams matching up against one another and the entire event raised over $15,000.  Thanks to everyone for being a part of it.

(Though my team didn’t make it all the way to the finals – there are a lot of ringers out there – we had a good time for a great cause.)

(Here are five women who are fighting hard against ALS: Kristin Quinn, myself, my cousin Jenny Gore Dwyer, Elizabeth Hebron – battling it herself at age 26 – and Teresa Thurtle.)

(A number of Hmong-Americans came to visit my office last week on the same day I introduced legislation to honor the Hmong soldiers who fought alongside us in Vietnam.)

(It was an honor to meet the Last Frontier Honor Flight during their D.C. trip. Click the picture to watch a brief video of their visit.)

(When the National Peace Officers’ Candlelight Vigil was delayed for rain, I stopped for Chinese dinner and waited for the rain to pass.)

(The Baldiviez family – the people behind the delicious “House of Bread” in Anchorage – came to visit my office as the Alaska Small Business Persons of the Year.  Thanks for the apron gift!)

(It was great catching up with some friends at the Marine Mammal Commission's recent meeting.)

(Alaskans love our small brewers!  I enjoyed visiting with Ben Millstein of Kodiak Island Brewing Company to talk about my work with the Senate Small Brewers Caucus.  Click here to read a Capital City Weekly article about my work for our breweries.)

(Here I am with two young women who are doing amazing things in their community: Leah Smith and Catherine Dolma, winners of the Prudential Spirit of Community award.)