Published: May 31, 2010 9:44 PM EDT
Updated: May 31, 2010 6:44 PM EDT

PANAMA CITY – Recognizing the tremendous contributions and significance of the men and women in the American Armed Forces, Governor Charlie Crist today hosted a roundtable with Florida National Guardsmen and women.

Following the roundtable, the Governor visited the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2185 where he signed three bills memorializing military veterans on highways, bridges and roads throughout the state, providing discounts to veterans at state parks, and addressing organizations misrepresenting legitimate veteran status.

“The brave men and women of our Armed Forces, whose selfless and patriotic service allows us to enjoy the liberties we know as Americans, deserve our respect not just on Memorial Day, but throughout the year,” said Governor Crist. “I am honored to pay tribute to our veterans through this legislation which recognizes their heroic legacy.”

During today’s roundtable discussion, Governor Crist highlighted the contributions of the Florida National Guard in response to the Deepwater Horizon Incident in the Gulf of Mexico. He praised their readiness to protect Florida from the impact of the oil spill.

The Governor also thanked the Guardsmen and women for working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM). DEP Secretary Mike Sole, DEM Director David Halstead, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley, and Major General Emmett Titshaw and Major General Douglas Burnett, Adjutant Generals of the Florida National Guard, were among the roundtable participants.

The Governor also spent the Memorial Day holiday with Major General Douglas Burnett at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2185. After expressing his appreciation to Florida veterans for their heroic service, as well as their families’ sacrifice, Governor Crist signed House Bill 5, 1145 and 1455. This legislation will accomplish the following:

House Bill 5

Relating to road, bridge, and building designations. Sponsored by Representatives Denise Grimsley and Kurt Kelly, House Bill 5 makes 47 road, bridge and building designations throughout the state, which includes the Purple Heart Highway, the Veterans Memorial Highway in Gilchrist County, and many others.

House Bill 1145

Relating to state parks. Sponsored by Senator Carey Baker and Representative Leonard Bembry, House Bill 1145 creates a 25 percent discount on an annual pass to state parks for active duty military and honorably discharged vets. The legislation also provides a “Lifetime Family Entrance Pass” free of charge for service disabled veterans and their families, and for surviving spouses of those who have fallen in combat.

House Bill 1455

Relating to the misrepresentation of military status. Sponsored by Senator Dan Gelber and Representative Maria Sachs, House Bill 1455 amends existing law relating to solicitation of funds by making it a felony to misrepresent military or veteran status while soliciting funds. The legislation will prevent fraudulent fundraising by those who dishonestly tap into the prestige and credibility of heroic veterans for personal gain.