By Rep. Anita Kulik
We have come to the end of May – rather quickly it seems! The weather has finally warmed up and everyone is looking forward to a fun and peaceful summer.
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. It is a three-day weekend filled with picnics and outdoor activities. There are parades and Little League games, family gatherings and so much more. But the real key to the holiday should be those services that are meant to honor our fallen heroes – the true core of our celebrations.
Memorial Day started out as “Decoration Day” to honor those who died in the Civil War. It was later changed to Memorial Day to honor all American military personnel who died while in service to their country.
Memorial Day became an official Federal holiday in 1970 and is celebrated the last Monday of May. Many now use the day to remember all veterans who have passed on. You will see Legion and VFW members and local volunteers at cemeteries, decorating the graves of our lost veterans. Many services will be taking place in our local communities to honor those veterans who are gone and to honor those who are still with us.
There is no sufficient amount of thanks we can extend to our veterans. Those who answered their country’s call and those who volunteered their service deserve our utmost respect and support.
Being on the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee gives me and my colleagues the opportunity to give the support to our veterans that they so richly deserve.
Most veteran services come through the Federal government, but on a state level we are able to provide services and enact legislation that will assist our veterans and current service personnel.
There are currently several bills being considered in the House Veterans Affairs Committee, or which have been passed out of committee. This committee is by far the most amiable and bipartisan committee in the House, and the majority of the bills that come for consideration get passed out of committee.
House Bill 1691 proposes to establish a new instant lottery game to fund veterans’ long-term care services and other benefits and outreach programs for older veterans.
Two of the other proposed bills would appropriate monies received from the American Rescue Plan. House Bill 1389 would appropriate $1 million to the Veterans Trust Fund and House Bill 1427 would appropriate $1 million to the Veterans Service Officer Grant Program.
Women veterans have particular issues that need special attention. House Resolution 129 will establish a task force on Women Veterans’ Health Care.
House Bill 2361 will designate June 12 of each year as Women Veterans Day in Pennsylvania.
There is a proposed bill to have institutions of higher education coordinate services for veteran students and another bill that would help homeless veterans through a housing assistance program. Other bills look to help veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, assist military spouses with employment protections and modernize the State Armory Board.
The Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee continually monitors the needs of our veterans and servicewomen and men.
The committee likewise looks to provide helpful legislation to our first responders. My proposed legislation to help provide funding to fire companies and EMS units is being circulated and co-sponsors are joining on. Other proposals have been circulated for consideration.
Each of us can do our part to support our first responders. As summer begins, please keep our police, fire and EMS providers in mind. There are growing personnel shortages among these professionals and growing stress on those who remain in these jobs.
While we are all enjoying the summer, please keep these good people in mind with a kind word or gesture, a case of water or snacks delivered to their stations, or support of their fundraising efforts.
These good people are essential to our well-being and the well-being of our communities. The support we give them, even a small gesture, goes a long way towards their well-being.