If you know a veteran, please forward this issue to them (you can sign up for my mission reports here). There are some important updates, resources and information they can use.
In this Update:
Happy Holidays to All Our Active-Duty Military, Veterans and Their Families
With the holiday season upon us, I want to take a moment to extend my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for your unwavering dedication, sacrifice and service to our nation. Whether you are currently serving in the military, are a veteran or a cherished family member, your commitment does not go unnoticed.
The holidays can be a time of reflection, connection and joy, but they can also bring unique challenges, especially for those who are far from home or have experienced the profound impact of military life. It’s essential to recognize the sacrifices you make and the strength you demonstrate daily.
May this holiday season be a time of warmth, love and togetherness for you and your loved ones. May you find moments of peace and joy, surrounded by the support and appreciation you deserve. To those currently deployed, I thank you for your dedication, and our thoughts are with you as you serve far from home.
For veterans, your service continues to inspire us, and we are grateful for the legacy of honor and bravery you have left. To the families who stand by their loved ones in uniform, thank you for your resilience, strength and sacrifices you make alongside your military member.
As we celebrate this season of giving, let us remember the importance of gratitude, kindness and compassion. Reach out to one another, share stories and create lasting memories that will sustain you through any distance or challenge.
I wish you all a joyful holiday season filled with love, peace and the warmth of cherished connections. Your service is a gift to us all, and for that, I am profoundly thankful.
Honoring U.S. Army Colonel Walter Joseph Marm Jr.
Last month, I was humbled and honored to meet retired U.S. Army Colonel Walter Joseph Marm Jr. at a ceremony honoring our nation’s veterans.
Colonel Marm, a western Pennsylvania native, was awarded our nation’s highest military decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during a combat operation in Vietnam.
Thank you, Colonel Marm and all our veterans.
National Wreaths Across America Day
This year, National Wreaths Across America Day will be held on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.
However, on Dec. 12, I had the honor of joining some of my Senate colleagues in a wonderful ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda, where we recognized our fallen veterans and joined those from Wreaths Across America.
On Dec. 16, if you can, join the more than two million volunteers and supporters who will gather at more than 4,000 participating locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad to adorn service members’ grave sites with wreaths. As each wreath is placed upon the site, the name of the service member is spoken aloud, appreciating and remembering the sacrifice they paid.
I’ll be participating in two wreath-laying ceremonies on Dec. 16. I’ll be speaking at the Wreaths Across America ceremony being held at the Marienville North Forest/St. Ann’s Cemetery (Forest County), with that event to begin at 11 a.m. And I will provide the opening remarks for the Wreaths Across America ceremony at Brandon Cemetery on Old Salina Road in Seneca (Venango County), with that event starting at 1:30 p.m.
Learn more about the Wreaths Across America mission here.
Staying in Touch with Friends, Family and Yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and put yourself last, especially around the holidays.
As member of the military, you were trained to put others’ needs ahead of your own, and that doesn’t end when you leave active service.
But remember that when you were in the military, you were part of something bigger than yourself, and to accomplish a mission meant relying on others.
Now that you’re a veteran, that hasn’t changed. Everyone faces struggles in life, and no one can get through them alone.
To stay mentally and physically healthy, you can’t wait until everything piles up. You can’t wait for a crisis to happen. You have to reach out for support when you need it.
If you or the veterans in your life need support, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers many resources that can help. And you don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to use any of them. You can learn more about those resources here.
It can be hard to ask for help, but you aren’t alone and don’t have to carry the weight on your own. The Veterans Crisis Line is a call, chat or text away, and it can help with whatever you’re going through: Dial 988 then Press 1, chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs offers several resources to support community partners connecting veterans in crisis to the best possible resources to help them live a safe, healthy, quality life.
By staying in touch with the people you care about – including yourself – you can find the hope and support you deserve. Not just during the holidays but all year.
How One Leash Can Save Two Lives
Leashes of Valor (LOV) is a nonprofit organization that supports veterans by pairing them with service dogs from local shelters. Based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, LOV provides psychiatric service dogs at no cost to post-9/11 veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other “unseen” wounds of military service.
The organization is in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and its new facility – called Axel’s Place in honor of the service dog who inspired the organization – is currently undergoing renovations as it prepares to host its first group of veterans in the coming months. The 2,900-square-foot property is nestled on 10 secluded acres within a short drive of shopping centers, restaurants and other businesses where veterans, typically in groups of two to four, will get real-life training with their service dogs.
Veterans who receive service dogs through LOV’s program spend seven days living and training with the dogs at the facility, all at no cost to veterans.
You can learn more about the program here.
What You Earned – VA Benefits
The VA’s “What You Earned” campaign focuses on educating veterans and their families about some of the most tangible, cost-saving benefits of using the VA, including low-cost or no-cost health care, debt-free education, $0 down payments on home loans, no-cost memorial services and burials and more.
The campaign uses actual cost comparisons to demonstrate veterans’ savings with the VA vs. without the VA, with the goal of encouraging veterans who are not enrolled in VA health care or receiving VA benefits to apply for the first time.
If you need help navigating the benefits process, the American Legion offers Accredited American Legion service officers who are specially trained to provide expert assistance, free of charge, to veterans and their families. While most of a service officer’s work involves application for VA disability benefits, these compassionate professionals also provide information, referrals and resources on education, employment and business, death benefits and other important topics. CLICK HERE for more information about finding a service officer.
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