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McGeehan tapped to head up veterans affairs

CHESTER — Delegate Patrick McGeehan, a U.S. Air Force veteran, says the best way to reduce high suicide rates among veterans is to “not send them into unconstitutional wars” in the first place.

McGeehan, R-Hancock, has been tapped to serve as chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee by state House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay. McGeehan said his first order of business will be to push for legislation prohibiting West Virginia’s governor from sending National Guard troops into action overseas when no federal declaration of war exists.

“I didn’t ask for, or lobby for, any leadership positions (in the House),” McGeehan said. “I had a very frank conversation with the speaker and told him I will remain myself. I told him if he wants to make me a chairman, fine. If not, fine. I will forward anything I agree with. I will ardently oppose when I don’t agree with it.

“He laughed and said he wouldn’t expect anything less,” McGeehan continued. “Sometimes I have to make sure I’m on the record with other officials so no assumptions are made.”

McGeehan is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He served in the Air Force from 1998 to 2006 as an intelligence officer and captain, and he served tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Among all 50 states, West Virginia has the highest number per capita of those serving in the military. Many of them are millenials serving in the most recent military conflicts, and among these soldiers is a high rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD.

“I will definitely be looking into veterans’ issues in my district,” McGeehan said. “Veterans, by and large, hold a special place in my heart.

“I have read that 22 veterans each day take their life,” he added. “That’s a pretty scary statistic.”

Asked what can be done to help reduce the number of veteran suicides, McGeehan had a ready response: “The biggest thing we can do is stop sending them into unconstitutional wars overseas,” McGeehan said.

He said legislation prohibiting the governor from deploying National Guard troops when war isn’t declared will come before his committee.

“I will put it on the agenda for debate — if I don’t get fired first,” McGeehan said.

(King can be contacted at jking@theintelligencer.net)

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