Memorial Day is a time for all Americans to honor those who have lost their lives in defense of freedom. It’s also a time to thank our surviving veterans – both young and old – for serving this country. Here in Pennsylvania, there are more than 964,000 veterans to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. While Pennsylvania’s veteran population topped 1.11-million in 2005, officials say we still rank fourth among states in terms of our population of veterans.
“Although the number of veterans in our state has gone down over the last five years, we’ve been able to help veterans secure more funding, particularly in pension and compensation benefits,” says Department of Military and Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Joan Nissley. She tells us Pennsylvania veterans received $1.5-billion dollars in benefits in federal fiscal year 2010. “That’s money that’s actually coming into our veterans’ pockets,” she says. VA expenditures also totaled more than $3.8-billion in Pennsylvania in fiscal year 2010.
Nissley also encourages those veterans who have recently returned from Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere to seek the benefits that they’ve earned. “When it’s time for them and they’re ready they can come to us, or to a county director for veterans’ affairs, or to an accredited veterans’ service officer at one of the state veterans organizations,” Nissley says. A good first stop for vets interested in learning more about their benefits is the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website.
On this Memorial Day, President Barack Obama has designated the hour beginning at 11am as the time for America to unite in prayer. President Obama is also asking all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3pm local time. This tradition dates back to 1950.