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A bill package sponsored by Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jack Conners and Assembly members Paul D. Moriarty, Cleopatra G. Tucker, Matthew W. Milam and Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson to aid and honor New Jersey veterans was signed into law Monday by Gov. Christie during a public ceremony at Haddon Lake Park in Haddon Heights.

“These laws are just another small way we, as New Jerseyans, can honor the sacrifices made by veterans of our armed services,” said Conners (D-Camden/Burlington), a former Army Reservist and Army National Guard member. “They put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedoms and deserve our thanks and support.”

The first law (formerly A-515) expands the 2002 “Operation Recognition” program, which awards diplomas to New Jersey military men and women who went to war prior to graduating, to Korean and Vietnam war veterans. Previously the program only awarded state-endorsed high school diplomas to WWI and WWII veterans who attended high school in New Jersey but enrolled in military service before graduation. The law was sponsored by Conners, Milam and Moriarty.

“Many brave men and women from New Jersey put their lives on hold to defend ours nation during the Korean and Vietnam wars,” said Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Expanding this worthy program is another way of honoring them and thanking them for their service and sacrifice.”

“This is the right thing to do for our veterans who put our country before themselves,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “We should have done this a long time ago, but at least we’re now moving in the right direction and doing the moral thing for our veterans.”

The second law (formerly A-1945) creates a New Jersey Honor Guard Ribbon to honor active members of the New Jersey National Guard, Honor Guard Retiree members and Contracted Civilian Buglers who have served as Honor Guard Team Members in the Army National Guard New Jersey Honor Guard Program or who work at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Cemetery. Eligible individuals must have to have performed a minimum of 30 Honor Guard Service missions for deceased veterans. The measure was sponsored by Conners, Tucker, Wilson and Moriarty.

“The men and women in uniform who stand guard over those who make the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country are deserving of recognition,” said Conners.

“This ribbon is a small gesture of recognition to the invaluable National Guard service members provide to the families, friends and communities of ‘Those Who Served,'” said Tucker (D-Essex), vice chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“These men and women voluntarily choose to stand watch over their deceased comrades as they are laid to rest and we should recognize that honorable choice,” said Wilson (D-Camden), a member of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“These individuals could be doing anything with their time, yet they are choosing to serve their deceased brothers and sisters in arms,” said Moriarty. “It seems only fitting to recognize them for their distinguished service.”

The final law (formerly A-1944) changes the membership requirements and composition of the state Veterans’ Services Council, which conducts important investigative hearings into the activities of the Division of Veterans’ Services as well as advising the division’s director, to make the council more responsive to veterans’ needs.

“This is a common sense reform that will help ensure veterans needs and concerns throughout the state are heard and addressed in a timely manner,” said Conners.

“Making the Veterans’ Services Council a more active and engaged part of the state’s veterans’ community is another small way we can show our thanks for the sacrifices made by our brave servicemen and women,” said Tucker.

“Re-acclimating to life post service doesn’t happen in a vacuum and we need to make sure that support systems — like the Veterans’ Services Council — are there to help our brave men and women in uniform every step of the way,” said Moriarty.