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OPED: Honoring those who serve and sacrifice
On sunny Saturday afternoon last month, a military aircraft carrying returning servicemen and women approached the runway at Harrisburg International Airport, and families — parents, spouses, siblings, and children dressed in red, white and blue — raised handmade signs and waved small American flags toward the landing plane.
As our heroes deplaned, you could see the pure joy of reuniting with their families and everyone joined them in feeling overwhelmed with pride.
My wife, Frances, and I were there on the tarmac to welcome members of Pennsylvania’s National Guard home from the Middle East.
We were honored to be able to witness this moment and to thank members of the National Guard for their dedication to our country, and thank their families for all that they sacrifice, as well.
It was truly a reminder of how much we owe these heroes, their families, and all those who served our country.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is working each day to serve Pennsylvania's 800,000 veterans and all our active military, whether we're assisting them get a job, find housing, or connect to services that will enhance their quality of life.
Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General Tony Carrelli and I are committed to doing everything we can for our veterans and active military members and have been working to expand services and outreach throughout Pennsylvania.
That's why we launched a Network of Care site for veterans, military members and their families to centralize services and benefits and I signed a Stolen Valor bill, which protects benefits for service members.
I'm also proud to say that in just under two years Pennsylvania has helped more than 4,250 veterans find permanent housing in order to work towards zero homeless veterans statewide working with partners at the local level.
We're also making sure veterans and military families have opportunities at home. We exempted military veterans and reservists from certain fees for business start-ups so that these smart entrepreneurs can bring the knowledge they learned through their service to growing our economy right here in Pennsylvania. And we're now better supporting veterans transitioning from military service to careers in education thanks to new funding.
We're also getting mobilized. Last year, the DMVA’s outreach vans traveled more than 100,000 miles in their effort to reach Pennsylvania’s veterans and provide information and assistance to them and their family members about benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Benefits might include service-connected disability compensation, improved pensions, VA health care benefits, education benefits, vocational rehabilitation, and much more. Veterans, military members and their families can learn more about DMVA’s services at www.dmva.pa.gov.
There's still more work to do to make sure Pennsylvania's veterans are getting everything they deserve for their service. But on this Veterans' Day, I want each of them and every member of their families to know that their sacrifices for us will never be forgotten and we are here to help — however and whenever we can.
— Tom Wolf is governor of Pennsylvania.