Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore, and Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, were named Senate and House Legislators of the Year by the Oklahoma Veterans Council during a joint session Wednesday afternoon. It was the second year in a row Simpson has been honored by the council, and the first time for Hardin.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized for our work, but it is especially touching to be recognized by our fellow veterans,” Simpson said. “Helping our brothers and sisters in arms has been our main focus since getting into office, and it will remain so. These heroes have given so much for their country, and they deserve only the best services our state can provide. Rep. Hardin and I will continue to work to make sure that they and their families get those services.”
The Oklahoma Veterans Council consists of 24 veterans organizations around the state, and honors one senator and house member each year. Simpson serves as chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee and served in the U.S. Navy for 26 years. He retired from active duty in 1988. During his career, Simpson served on nine sea commands, including a six-month deployment with the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Beirut, Lebanon. He received the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal and numerous other awards and citations.
Hardin is vice chair of the House Veterans Committee, and served six years in the U.S. Marines.
“I’m glad the House and Senate have worked together to take care of our heroes in recent years,” Hardin said. “So many issues get turned into political footballs at the Capitol, but the well-being and livelihoods of our veterans should never be one of those issues. I’m honored to have received this special award, and I want to thank Sen. Simpson for his leadership and for helping me fight for our veterans.”
Simpson considered it an honor to be recognized for the second year in a row. He said the award was on legislation based in 2013 in which improved oversight and accountability was mandated for the care of veterans in the state’s veteran centers.
“It is always an honor when you are recognized by your peers,” Simpson said. “The fact was this was not something I did by myself. All the veterans on the veterans commission work closely with me, and we were able to get this legislation passed.
“I would think it is validation and it tells me we are doing the right thing. We have our critics, but we have more people that are telling us we are doing the right thing. The thing that is overwhelming is the amount of feedback we have gotten from the families of our veterans in the centers.”
Hardin said he considered it a high honor from the veterans groups from around the state. He also credited Simpson for his work in furthering the cause of the state’s veterans.
“We teamed up on a lot of the bills,” Hardin said. “I was the House author (oversight in veterans centers). Being a veteran, and my son serving in the Army, we are trying to make Oklahoma the best state in the nation for veterans. Winning re-election would be the only thing close to this honor. It was worth all the time, debates, questions and the committees. We are working on a bill and trying to address concerns. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes when working on bills that people don’t know about.
“I want to say thank you to the voters of District 49 for allowing me to serve as their representative. Without their support, I never would have received such an honor from the veterans of our state.”
Simpson said the current legislation in the House is a bill that will completely restructure the veterans commission and expand eligibility to veterans who have been excluded.
Simpson was also honored as the Legislator of the Year by the Department of Rehabilitative Services for his work with the School for the Deaf in Sulphur. Simpson said work is taking place to expand services at the school.