Today, our nation marks the 90th observance of Veterans Day. In the 7th congressional District we are honored to be home to more than 54,000 veterans and their families. As the son of a World War II vet and having been fortunate to serve 31 years on active duty, this opportunity to acknowledge the heroism of veterans past, present and future inspires a combination of solemn reflection and open celebration unlike any other day on our national calendar.
Our 24 million American veterans are an extraordinary group who today will both weep openly for their lost comrades and joyously embrace their loved ones grateful that they survived conflict and danger for the opportunity to pay forward their blessings to family, friends, community and country. The debt we owe these men and women is immeasurable.
To honor our troops and veterans, I am proud that Congress has enacted a new GI Bill for a full, four-year education, to make the warriors of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan part of a new American economic recovery, just like after World War II.
To compete in a global economy and prepare our service members for future success, this action is long past due. Current benefits pay only about 60 percent of a public college education. Many of our troops have served multiple tours of duty, with great strain on their families and often at a cost to their financial futures. The original GI Bill launched millions of families on a course of prosperity toward achieving the American Dream, and set the American economy on the right course after a draining war.
Legislation alone, however, will not offer our current generation of veterans the quality of life equal of their WWII counterparts. To do that, we must embrace our veterans as a community and resolve our pressing economic challenges. Returning vets must have access to the good jobs that will support them and their families.
Our nation has not always honored our veterans as it should have. The Korean War is often referred to as the "Forgotten War." Worse, the motto of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is "Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another" testament to the enormous frustration those veterans felt on returning home to a lesser reception than their fathers received following WWII.
Therefore, I am extremely proud that so many residents work tirelessly to see that our four generations of veterans receive the care and respect they have earned.
For example, the staff of the Springfield VA Outpatient Clinic, part of the Coatesville VA Medical Center, routinely receives high marks from local veterans for providing excellent service. Marsha Four of Springfield works tirelessly on issues of women veterans. Kathy Sweeney of Upper Darby leads a local chapter of Soldiers Angels, the Herbert W. Best VFW Post 928 of Folsom and the Springfield American Legion routinely ship packages to our troops as do the parishioners of St. Johns Chrsyostom under the leadership of Jane and Joe Banik. The Ladies Auxiliary of the Upper Darby Marine Corps League. Dennis Murphy of Neumann College and Jim Ulmer of the VVA Chapter 67 are working to restore the Monsignor Bonner High School Memorial to graduates of that school who lost their lives in service to our nation.
Cabrini College, Widener University, Villanova University and Immaculata University each have designed programs to see veterans get full access to those institutions and the education benefits they have earned.
Linda Durkin and professor Labron Shuman initiated the Delaware County Community College Veterans Club that reflects an institutional and personal commitment to our most recent heroes. Many local veterans volunteer their time to their comrades at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Charlie and Dolores Watson of Collingdale have been supporters of Adopt-a Platoon for years. Marian Moran leads the local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers with skill and passion.
As the Pennsylvania Army National Guard prepares to deploy again, its largest since WWII, Collingdale Fire Company #1 and VP Stynor Carter initiated "Operation Hot Foot" to collect woolen socks for the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
I could go on but there just isn't room in this article to acknowledge every action of kindness and patriotism that the citizens of the district have undertaken for our veterans and that really is the point. I am proud to be counted among you and I thank you for all that you do for our veterans.
Be certain that in the 111th Congress I will redouble my efforts to strengthen our economy and our military, support our troops and their families, and provide services to our veterans worthy of their sacrifices and valor. We will leave no veteran behind.
(U.S. Rep Joseph Sestak, D-7th, resides in Edgmont.)