RENSSELAER — State Representative Doug Gutwein is a member of four committees at the legislative level.
He is chairman of the Select Committee of Government Reduction and sits in on the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, Agriculture and Rural Development and Environmental Affairs committees.
Three of the four committees can present quite a challenge to Gutwein’s patience, but he fiercely enjoys serving on Veteran Affairs.
“The best committee in the Statehouse,” he said.
Gutwein enjoys the camaraderie that permeates throughout the committee and the commitment each member has to the state’s veterans.
“About half of the committee are veterans,” Gutwein said. “The safety part is chaired by (State Rep.) Randy Frye, who is a retired firefighter from Indianapolis, so safety is kind of his big deal. He is very supportive of any veterans’ legislative that comes along.
“It’s a great committee because it’s a very positive committee.”
Among the items the committee hangs its hat on is the development of a tuition/fee exemption for college for children of a disabled veteran or a Purple Heart recipient and the military family relief fund, which provides funds to families struggling to make ends meet when an enlisted man or woman are stationed around the world.
“They can get a tax exempt amount of $2,500 with almost no questions asked to help them through the tough times while the boss is away,” Gutwein said.
In 2019, Gutwein authored a law to better notify Hoosier veterans of available resources by adding questions regarding a person’s veteran status to Indiana’s driver’s license application. He also co-authored a law to phase in a complete military income tax exemption over a four-year period.
Gutwein has been a member of the Veterans Affairs committee for 10 years. He is in his 12th year as a state representative.
“We’re not leading the nation in what we do for our veterans by any means,” he said, “but we try to be responsible from a fiscal standpoint when we enact things, and I think the veterans appreciate what we do for them.”
This Memorial Day, Gutwein will offer his service to veterans once again as guest speaker of the Rensselaer American Legion Post 29 and VFW’s Memorial Day services. He will provide a few words to those in attendance at Weston Cemetery on Monday, May 25 beginning at 11 a.m.
He will touch on the challenges we are facing currently with the pandemic.
“The theme this year is the new normal,” he said. “Let’s look back to the wars. That was the new normal then when their loved ones never came home. That was normal for them so those families faced challenges also.”
Gutwein will speak in Rensselaer for the first time since addressing visitors of the Vietnam Traveling Wall in 2018. He will stand in for fellow Vietnam veteran Mayor Steve Wood, who is a regular guest speaker at the Memorial Day services.
“I kid, but I told him, ‘I could recite your speech,’” Gutwein said of Wood.
“I’m not the Dale Carnegie of giving speeches, but I try to get my point across in a few paragraphs and move on.”
A U.S. Army veteran, Gutwein served three years in Frankfurt, Germany and Vietnam beginning in 1967.
“Of course, that was when the draft was coming around for Vietnam,” he said. “I just got out of high school (in Francesville) and I didn’t know what to be, so rather than do the draft I enlisted.”
His brother served two tours in Vietnam and Doug followed his older sibling later driving supply trucks in Vietnam.
“That was my day job,” he said.
Gutwein said his experience in Vietnam helped shape him into the person he is today. In January, he was presented with a “Service Before Self” award at the sixth annual Indiana Military Veterans Legislative Day honoring both his military service and legislative efforts to help Hoosier veterans.
“As a veteran, I’ve made it my duty to do all I can to help my fellow service men and women,” he said after receiving the award. “I’m honored to be in a position where I can help improve the lives of Hoosier veterans and active service members, and will continue doing so for as long as I am in office.”