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:
Remembering Our Military Veterans on Veterans Day
On Saturday, Nov. 11, we will honor all Americans who have served.
Veterans Day is not about battles fought or enemies defeated, although those are important to the defense of liberty. The day is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things and making incredible sacrifices, and the debt we owe them.
These veterans are not just veterans…they have been community volunteers, public servants and local leaders. They continue to give back.
Let’s take this opportunity to say “thank you” to them and to let them know we will NEVER forget what they have done for all of us.
As a matter of history, in November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
The day was chosen because a year earlier, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, effectively ending World War I.
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.
In 1938, Armistice Day – Nov. 11 – was recognized, in federal statute, as a legal holiday.
Up until the end of World War II, the holiday only honored veterans of World War I. But in 1954, Congress amended the statute creating the federal holiday by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans,” making Nov. 11 a day to honor all American war veterans.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” on Oct. 8, 1954.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey, an estimated 6.2% of Pennsylvania’s population are veterans, of which 36.3% are Vietnam era veterans, 19.9% are Gulf War (8/1990 to 8/2001) veterans, 19.8% are Gulf War (9/2001 or later) veterans, 5.2% are Korean War veterans and 1.1% are World War II veterans. More than 91.8% of Pennsylvania’s veterans are men and 55.2% of our state’s veterans are 65 years of age or older.
Veterans Memorial Park Dedicated in Reynoldsville
With a huge audience in attendance, the new Kenneth Lyons Veterans Memorial Park and Cebulski Starlite Stage in Reynoldsville were officially dedicated on Tuesday, Oct. 7 to the “memory of those who fell and those who serve.”
Perhaps most notable, the park is named not for a soldier in uniform, but, instead, for a sixteen-year-old Reynoldsville High School Honor student who also died serving his country.
Kenneth Lyons, who had older brothers fighting in the war, was helping other high schoolers collect scrap metal during the World War II conflict. In May 1948, he was killed after slipping beneath the wheels of the collection vehicle.
Immediately following the dedication ceremony, an invitation was extended for all in attendance to visit the park, read the names on the monuments and remember that those names belonged to real people.
The Veterans Memorial Park Committee is under the Reynoldsville Community Association with direct ties to the Reynoldsville American Legion. The current committee members are Francis Caltagarone, Ralph ‘Tucker’ August, Dan Edwards, Gary Hanst, Sam Bundy, Allen Klebacha and Jack Wells.
2023 Veterans Day Retail Discounts, Free Meals, Other Offers
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs manages a list of discounts available to veterans on Veterans Day (Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023).
They continue to update the list as they learn of more nationally available Veterans Day discounts, meals or other ways businesses and organizations want to give back to veterans, though offers are always subject to change, so organizations offering the offers should be contacted to verify the offers.
You can view here the list of Veterans Day and year-round discounts, free meals and other programs to benefit veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.
VA Provides Care to Eligible Veterans’ Family Members
The family members of some veterans are eligible to receive VA-covered care through several special programs offered by the VA.
According to the VA, more than 700,000 beneficiaries (spouses and children) are eligible to receive specific types of care and services through four family member-focused VA programs: the Civilian Health and Medical Program of VA (CHAMPVA), Camp LeJeune Family Member Program (CLFMP), Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV) and Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program (SBHCBP).
You can learn more about these programs and their eligibility requirements here.
My HealtheVet Changes Coming
The VA is building a new website on VA.org for its health-related tools, including the My HealtheVet website.
The VA says that through October 2024, they will be building the new My HealtheVet on VA.gov to provide a single place for veterans to manage their health care needs in the same location where they manage their other VA benefits and services.
As they’re building it, they indicate they will welcome feedback about the changes so they can make sure the tools serve veteran needs.
You can learn more about the new website and how to provide feedback here.
PA’s Veterans Employment Program
Organizations that help connect veterans with jobs have until Nov. 15 to apply for grants that support Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Veterans Employment Program projects.
Approximately $800,000 in funding will be made available, with grant awards of up to $200,000. Other grants will be awarded to service delivery areas across Pennsylvania based on availability of funds, competitive scoring and priority.
The grant program exists to assist veterans who have received a discharge other than dishonorable, members of the reserves and guard, and spouses of veterans and service members in securing employment that pays a living wage.
My Recommended Read for Veterans in the Month of November
Although there are numerous leadership styles inspiring infinite, best-selling leadership books, Share, Don’t Take the Lead tells the tales of how multiple trail blazing organizations are implementing “shared leadership” to build higher performance and conqueror the competition.
From the book: Authors Dr. Craig Pearce, Dr. Charles Manz and Henry Sims maintain the philosophy of shared leadership is a straightforward alternative perspective that can be “executed by anyone who has the best knowledge or skill to undertake the leadership necessary in any given situation.
“Shared leadership is especially relevant, for example, in empowered teams where shared leadership can be initiated from any team member at any time, depending on the needs of the moment and the capabilities of the individuals…”
“The notion of shared leadership seems to contradict many of the bedrock ideas of efficient management and effective organizations. A typical first reaction is, ‘It’ll never work here!’ Yet, the organizations that ‘get it’ and implement this new powerful approach tend to be more innovative and out-perform their nay-sayer competitors.”
To summarize, Share, Don’t Take the Lead “offers fresh insights and new information about how to push the organizational envelope to new frontiers.”
What are Vet Centers?
I’ve been asked this question by several of my fellow vets and feel it’s important to provide an answer to those who haven’t reached out yet.
VA Vet Centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling for War-Zone Veterans and their families, World War II to the current Global War on Terror.
Vet Centers are small, non-medical, counseling centers conveniently located in our region. They’re staffed by highly trained counselors and team members dedicated to seeing you through the challenges that come with managing life during and after the military.
Our region is served by the DuBois Vet Center, which is one of 12 Vet Centers in Pennsylvania and over 300 across the country. Whether you come in for one-on-one counseling or to participate in a group session, at Vet Centers you can form social connections, try new things, and build a support system with people who understand you and want to help you succeed. The Dubois Vet Center’ website is designed to provide veterans, family members, and community partners the ability to see what services the center offers, as well as the center’s Community Access Points with a picture of the entrance so first time visitors have a frame of reference to help guide them in.
From my time in the State House through my current position, I’ve had a strong relationship with the Dubois Vet Center. They have helped me help many of my fellow vets.
Two Recreational Therapy Groups Available at the Dubois Vet Center
As part of a national competition, the DuBois Vet Center was approved for initial funding for two recreational therapy groups.
One of the groups is an introduction to fly tying for fly fishing, with one of the center’s counselors being an avid fly tyer and fisherman. The other group is a no sew blanket group, which the center hopes will generate interest from women veterans, but the group is open to anyone who would like to join.
The groups will be held at the Vet Center with approximately 4 cohorts to run quarterly with 6 vets in each cohort. The center says it hopes to grow these groups and potentially be able to have them at the center’s Community Access Points (CAPs) in McKean, Centre and Blair counties, with the possibility of adding more recreational therapy groups in the future.
The center noted the initial funding will help them launch the groups, but they will be actively trying to obtain additional funding they can expand on them.
Who is eligible to receive services at Vet Centers?
Vet Center services are available to Veterans at no cost, regardless of discharge character, and without the need to be enrolled in VA health care or having a service-connected disability. If you are a Veteran or service member, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, you can access Vet Center services if you:
Contacting your local Vet Center
Even if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to receive services from a Vet Center, please contact a center. From personal experience I can tell you that, if the center can’t help you, they’ll find someone who will.
Center services are also available to family members when their participation would support the growth and goals of the Veteran or active-duty service member. If you consider them family, so does your local center. Bereavement services are also available to family members of Veterans who were receiving Vet Center services at the time of the Veteran’s death, and to the families of service members who died while serving on active duty.
The DuBois Vet Center, located at 100 Meadow Lane, Suite 8, DuBois, PA 15801, can be contacted at 814-372-2095 or toll free 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).
The DuBois Vet Center recently announced counseling and referral services are now being provided at the State College American Legion Post 245, in addition to the many services they offer at their locations in DuBois, Altoona, Bradford, Penn State-DuBois, Smethport and their mobile Vet Center.
The other Vet Center locations in Pennsylvania are:
For more information, please visit www.vetcenter.va.gov.