Honoring our Heroes on Veterans Day

As those across the nation and our great commonwealth prepare to honor our Veterans this Friday, Nov. 11th, I wanted to take the time out to say thank you to all the veterans and their family members who have made the sacrifice to protect what makes our country great. As a former active-duty Marine, I often reflect on how fortunate we are for the service of these extraordinary individuals. I have made a concerted effort to ensure that my gratitude for our veterans is reflected in my legislation in Harrisburg, introducing legislation that would offer tax-deductions to employers hiring veterans and legislation that would increase veteran-owned business participation in Commonwealth contracts. It is important that at all levels of government we fight to ensure our veterans have ample opportunities and resources commiserate with their dedication of service.


Today is also the 241st birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Marines are known for their bravery, and their fighting spirit was the difference at many important battles, including Iwo Jima and Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Every Marine is making a difference, and for 241 years, that difference is what has made America strong. “Semper Fi” to my Marine brothers, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude for ensuring we are free.


This November, I have been particularly reflective when thinking about the nearly 940,000 veterans here in Pennsylvania and whether we are providing all the resources they need to thrive financially, physically and mentally. This past fall, my office hosted an intern, Jacky Chen, from the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics who currently serves in the United States Army National Guard. While interning in my office, Specialist Chen had twice dealt with the loss of a Brother-in-Arms to suicide, bringing a total of four servicemen in only three years of service.


This heightened the reality that nationwide, 22 veterans and service members are lost to suicide each day. As a legislator and public servant, I began to question whether we are doing all we can to take care of our veterans domestically and abroad, and began to investigate what services there are in the Commonwealth to aid our veterans and their families who may be grappling with mental health concerns. As tragedy can sometimes fuel passion, Specialist Chen began compiling a repository of information regarding services available to veterans here in Pennsylvania. Knowing firsthand that veterans are not always connected to, or aware, of services that can help them, we aimed to address this gap by sending the information out to folks throughout my district and the Commonwealth at large.


Having this experience with someone so close to the tragedies affecting veterans and their families across our country sparked a strong desire to raise awareness. For the next 22 days, beginning this Friday, my office will highlight a veterans’ fact, resource, or story. On December 3rd, the end of this 22-day period signifying our soldiers lost domestically to suicide, I will be hosting a Veterans Appreciation Day to formally thank veterans all for everything they do.


I hope you will join with me on Veterans Day and thank these brave men and women for their sacrifice, but more than that, I want us all to work together to show our veterans how much we appreciate them by providing all the services and assistance they need to live long and healthy lives.