Senator Dush E-Newsletter

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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:

  • Merry Christmas, Happy New Year to All Our Active-Duty Military, Veterans and Their Families
  • Vet Centers
  • Staying in Touch with Friends, Family and Yourself
  • How One Leash Can Save Two Lives
  • What You Earned – VA Benefits
  • National Wreaths Across America Day
  • My Recommended Read for Veterans in the Month of December

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year to All Our Active-Duty Military, Veterans and Their Families

With the Christmas 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.

Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s 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 Christmas 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 Christmas 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.

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:

  • Served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Experienced military sexual trauma (regardless of gender or service era.)
  • Provided mortuary services or direct emergent medical care to treat the casualties of war while serving on active military duty.
  • Performed as a member of an unmanned aerial vehicle crew that provided direct support to operations in a combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Accessed care at a Vet Center prior to Jan. 2, 2013 as a Vietnam-Era Veteran.
  • Served on active military duty in response to a national emergency or major disaster declared by the president, or under orders of the governor or chief executive of a state in response to a disaster or civil disorder in that state.
  • Are a current or former member of the Coast Guard who participated in a drug interdiction operation, regardless of the location.

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:

  • Bucks County Vet Center, 2 Canals End Road, Suite 201B, Bristol, PA 19007, 215-823-4590
  • Erie Vet Center, 240 West 11th Street, Suite 105, Erie, PA 16501, 814-453-7955
  • Harrisburg Vet Center, 1500 N. Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102, 717-782-3954
  • Lancaster Vet Center, 1817 Olde Homestead Lane, Suite 207, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-283-0735
  • Norristown Vet Center, 320 East Johnson Highway, Suite 201, Norristown, PA 19401, 215-823-5245
  • City Center Philadelphia Vet Center, 801 Arch Street, Suite 502, Philadelphia, PA 19107, 215-627-0238
  • Northeast Philadelphia Vet Center, 101 East Olney Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19120, 215-924-4670
  • Pittsburgh Vet Center, 2500 Baldwick Road, Suite 15, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, 412-920-1765
  • Scranton Vet Center, 1002 Pittston Avenue, Scranton, PA 18505, 570-344-2676
  • White Oak Vet Center, 2001 Lincoln Way, Suite 280, White Oak, PA 15131, 412-678-7704
  • Williamsport Vet Center, 49 East Fourth Street, Suite 104, Williamsport, PA 17701, 570-327-5281

For more information, please visit

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. It’s okay to ask for help. 

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, 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. 

But, the VA isn’t the only place to reach out for help.  You can also reach out for help at one of your local churches or a veteran’s service organization.

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.

You can learn more about the VA here, and apply for health care here and your earned benefits here.

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.

National Wreaths Across America Day

This year, National Wreaths Across America Day will be held on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.

Join the more than two million volunteers and supporters who will gather to Remember, Honor and Teach at more than 4,000 participating locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

Learn more about the mission here.

My Recommended Read for Veterans in the Month of December

The Few: The American Knights of the Air Who Risked Everything to Fight in the Battle of Britain

As a US Air Force veteran, I cannot more highly recommend, The Few: The American “Knights of the Air” Who Risked Everything to Fight in the Battle of Britain by best-selling author Alex Kershaw.

From the book:

“By the summer of 1940 World War II had been under way for nearly a year. Hitler was triumphant and planning an invasion of England.

“But the United States was still a neutral country and, as Winston Churchill later observed, “the British people held the fort alone.”

“A few Americans, however, did not remain neutral. They joined Britain’s Royal Air Force to fight Hitler’s air aces and help save Britain in its darkest hour. 

“The Few is the never-before-told story of these thrill-seeking Americans who defied their country’s neutrality laws to fly side-by-side with England’s finest pilots.”

Although the US Air Force was not officially created as a separate branch of military service until Sept. 18, 1947, The Few offers even more proof positive evidence, that American-powered, air combat supremacy truly came of age before, during and immediately after World War II—as American pilots bravely and effectively fought in the skies above the European and Pacific theaters.


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