As I think back on this year, I am so proud of all we have been able to accomplish for Veterans and their families. Together we passed one of the largest Veterans health care bills the country has ever seen, got thousands of COVID-19 vaccines in the arms of Vets and their spouses, and continued to enhance our VA services here in the First State. We have a lot to be grateful for on this Veterans Day.
As a 23-year Veteran of the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves, who served three tours on active-duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, I always look for opportunities to connect with our nation’s men and women who served our country in uniform. And as the last Vietnam Veteran serving in the Senate, it is an honor to serve our country and state to champion bills that do right by our nation’s Veterans.
A few months ago, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues to support the passage of theHonoring our PACT Act — a historic piece of legislation that is one of the largest investments in VA health care in over three decades. The PACT Act finally provides benefits for Veterans who had known or suspected toxic exposures, including those who worked near burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some years ago, we did right by Vietnam Veterans exposed to chemicals from Agent Orange, and I am glad that we have expanded these critical VA benefits to more than 3.5 million Veterans who have bravely served our nation.
In addition to the PACT Act, I am grateful that over the past year, we have made large strides to increase and upgrade VA services for the more than 80,000 Veterans that call Delaware home. I was honored to attend the groundbreaking event last month in Dover for the new dental clinic at the Veterans Home. This clinic will bring quality dental care to Veterans who need it and is a fantastic investment in community-based care for our Vets.
Our Vets go on to do great things and continue to serve our society in many unique ways. Some become hospital workers, childcare providers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. I hope you’ll join me and take a moment this Veterans Day to reach out and thank a Veteran where you live for all they do in service of their community. I know I was fortunate enough to celebrate and thank Veteran-owned businesses across the first state last week by participating in the Small Business Administration’s “Veterans Small Business Week” — as shown in the many photos throughout this newsletter.
I’d like to end with a poem that was sent to me by Newark resident and fellow Veteran, Army Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Henker (Ret.) that speaks to what service means to him, and so many of us:
When our nation called, in need,
We stood and answered: “Yes Indeed!”
Some did little, some a lot …
Some got medals, some did not.
But now when others take our place,
To fight the fight and run the race,
We look each other in the face,
And say those words, those simple words,
That bind and link us – one and all –
Who answered to our country’s call:
God bless and stay safe,