Sen. Bernskoetter’s favorite part about serving in the Capitol.
I often get asked to name my favorite part of serving in the Missouri Legislature. There are a lot of great things about serving here: meeting new people, giving tours of the building to school groups, and passing legislation that positively impacts our state and its citizens. It can be challenging to pick just one thing.
But after much thought, my favorite thing at the Capitol is attending the ceremonies for legislators when they return from active duty in the military. With almost 200 representatives and senators serving at anytime, it’s not unusual for one or more of them to be deployed overseas during the legislative session. Often, they come home from their deployment while the year’s session is still going on, and members attend a ceremony to honor them when they return. The ceremonies are a little different each time, but they are typically hosted by the adjutant general or someone acting in the general’s stead. I’ve attended ceremonies held at the National Guard helicopter hanger and at the National Guard facility in Taos. Usually, the ceremony includes information about the history of the unit, its mission while deployed, and a speech given by senior leaders in the National Guard. The units always carry a U.S. flag and a Missouri state flag during their deployment. The oldest member in the unit is charged with carrying the U.S. flag throughout the entire deployment and returning it safely. The Missouri flag is entrusted to the youngest member of the unit, who is likewise responsible for returning it safely when the unit comes home.
The formal ceremony is certainly interesting, but the best part is when the families first get to see their returning loved ones. Children, parents, and spouses all hug and kiss their loved ones. Everyone gets so excited. After months and months of worry, the relief and joy is so apparent you can feel it in the air. It’s a very special experience. As much as I enjoy these observances, it does remind me of something sobering. I think of the men and women who don’t get to come home. My heart goes out to those families that have spent months waiting for a loved one to come back, knowing that for some of them, the wait will never be over. I wonder about the legislators that serve — whether they have friends that died defending our country. I think it’s probably a huge burden to bear that grief.
I’ve always supported our troops, and I’ve tried to use my time in the Legislature to carry and support bills that will make things better for soldiers and their families — both while they’re serving and after they return home. There are some things we can’t do through legislation, though. Some things we have to do as a family, friends, and as a community to support our returning servicemen and women. I try to remember that in my day-to-day life, and I hope the little things I do for soldiers or their families help make their burden easier. It’s a burden they took on willingly to protect us. That sacrifice is something I hope we never forget or take for granted.
Sen. Mike Bernskoetter took office in 2019, serving the 6th Senatorial District. Before being elected to theMissouri Senate, he served as a representative for the 59th District in the Missouri House of Representatives.