By Serphin R Maltese
I just returned after an exhilarating experience …a heart-stirring Veterans Day Parade and ceremony in hometown America. My hometown happens to be right here in Queens County. This past Sunday, November 6 we celebrated the third annual Middle Village Veterans Parade and it was bigger and better than ever.
We’re patriotic Americans in Queens, probably the most diverse county in the country, and we show it through our many parades and ceremonies on all the patriotic holidays, hosted by our veterans’ organizations and posts in every community.
But needless to say that’s not enough. At a time when our courageous men and women in the military are serving in foreign lands and laying their lives on the line, with many making the supreme sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re considering cutting costs and benefits to the detriment of those brave veterans and our military personnel.
While proposed plans for charging enrollment fees and reducing and canceling enrollment in VA’s health care priority categories have been scrapped, the real threat remains and we have to be vigilant and protective on all levels of government. We owe our vets nothing less.
During the Veterans Parade, watching both marchers and spectators was heart warming for all participants, young and old alike. If only we could maintain that enthusiasm, excitement and pride all year long.
Unfortunately, even as our military men and women continue to fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have to remind our fellow Americans that not only have our vets endured similar hardships away from home and loved ones, but have also lost valuable years to secure additional business experience – earn longevity credits in professions, unions, workplaces, pensions and benefit plans.
We can’t make whole the veterans who have lost limbs in action, but whenever possible, the least we can do is try to make our vets whole in these critical economic benefit categories.
- FAMILY SUPPORT, including credit and home mortgage counseling, family survivor benefit plans and support groups.
- EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS, including tuition assistance and scholarships for them, their spouses and children.
- LICENSING BENEFITS, including Veteran Exam Credits and extended age and time deadlines for professional licenses.
- TAX AND FINANCIAL BENEFITS, including tax relief and credits and extension of filing deadlines, re-employment protection and hiring preferences
- CITY, STATE AND FEDERAL EMPLOYEE BENEFITS, including health care and life insurance benefits.
To those naysayers who may say “That’s too much” or “Too expensive” or “That goes too far,” I ask how far did these vets go to protect our country, our families and our liberty.
Let’s face it, flying and waving flags on two or three national holidays a year isn’t enough of a payback for those who didn’t serve for any material or financial reasons. More than 42 million men and women have served in our nation’s armed forces since World War I. They put their lives on the line for you, your family members and our nation out of a powerful sense of duty and patriotism. Most of them are gone now. Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day dedicated to remembering all Americans who served in WWI. President Woodrow Wilson had proclaimed November 11, 1919 as the first Armistice Day to be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”
We can never truly repay the debt owed those veteran survivors of our nation’s conflicts. On Veterans Day 2011, as we celebrate and congratulate those veterans who served their country and lived, let us fill with pride and honor them with the gratitude and support that they so truly deserve.