Just in time for Veterans Day, Rep Connolly joined his Cambridge and Somerville colleagues in the House to pass two pieces of legislation to improve the mental health care for student veterans and to honor the military service contributions of a female American Revolutionary War soldier.
One bill establishes a continuing education program – administered by the University of Massachusetts Medical School – to train public higher education counselors on the symptoms of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and available resources for treatment for veterans attending state colleges and universities. The legislation aims to provide the necessary training for both clinical and non-clinical counselors working to support the unique needs of the more than 2,500 veteran students attending the state’s 29 public higher education institutions.
The second bill establishes a 15-member commission to design a memorial in honor of Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army. The commission will consist of legislators, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services, the Adjutant General of the Commonwealth, and representatives of veteran organizations.
"I was proud to take action to support veterans, particularly student veterans, by equipping institutions of higher learning with the tools to care for and serve their needs," said Representative Connolly. "I'm also excited the Commonwealth will memorialize the contributions of Deborah Sampson who's story is an inspiration."
In 1782, Sampson used the name Robert Shurtleff to join the elite Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment led by Captain George Webb at West Point, N.Y. Over the following year and a half, she participated in dangerous scouting missions, led a raid that brought about the capture of 15 Tory men, and stormed a British fort during the Siege of Yorktown.
Over the course of her service, Sampson sustained injuries including a forehead gash from a sword and a gunshot wound to the thigh. For the latter, she removed the bullet herself to avoid detection as a woman. When she later fell seriously ill and was hospitalized, her identity was discovered. On October 23, 1783, she received an honorable discharge and was the only woman to receive a full military pension for her service in the Continental Army. John Hancock and Paul Revere assisted her in obtaining her military pension, and General John Patterson selected her as his aide de camp due to her bravery and leadership. Sampson is the official state heroine of Massachusetts.
The two bills build on the House’s long-standing support for veterans with Massachusetts benefits and services often ranked as No. 1 in the nation. Most recently the legislature passed the BRAVE Act as well as legislation to assist veterans with funeral and burial expenses and property taxes.
The bills will now go to the Senate.