by Don Young
November 11, 2004
For many years America has been accustomed to Veterans Day celebrations
in honor of older vets - men and women who look back 30 years
or more to their service. Now, with the ongoing operations in
Afghanistan and Iraq, our nation has a new group of veterans.
Whether they agree or not with
our efforts in Iraq, I believe most Alaskans recognize that we
need to ensure that our military men and women are properly honored
and appropriately cared for. Congress is aware of this responsibility
- both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved
roughly $66.0 billion for the VA, about $4.1 billion more than
last year. The Veterans Health Administration will receive around
$28.3 billion, nearly $1.5 billion above last year's appropriation.
In the last two years, thanks to these increases and other efforts,
the amount of veterans waiting over 6 months for non-emergency
services from a VA facility has dropped 98% and we are
going to keep working that number down.
Individuals have many outlets
to show their appreciation for our veterans, both young and older:
- Alaska is privileged to have
the highest percentage of Veteran residents in the U.S. The various
veterans service organizations, such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have chapters in
Alaska and can offer suggestions for volunteer or donation opportunities.
Check your local phone book for their listings.
- The USO, whose good work for
our active duty troops was popularized by the late Bob Hope and
is now being carried on by Wayne Newton and many, many others,
has several programs where they can use assistance from civilians.
One of the best, especially for the upcoming holiday season,
is the USO Care Package program. These packages are delivered
to members of the U.S. Armed Forces around the world. With a
donation of $25 you can sponsor a care package and include a
personal message of support and encouragement. These packages
include requested items such as pre-paid worldwide phone cards,
sunscreen, travel size toiletries, disposable cameras and a message
from the donor thanking them for their service and sacrifice.
You can contact the USO for donations at USO.org or 1-800-876-7469.
- The VA also has a Voluntary Service Office, which can direct
interested individuals to appropriate volunteer opportunities
in the state. They can be reached at 907-257-5474.
- Operation Hero Miles allows
frequent flyer to donate their miles towards the purchase of
tickets for military personnel on emergency leave or for family
members to visit hospitalized troops. Learn more at Heromiles.org.
- There are also Government
chartered organizations that provide assistance - usually low
interest loans and other support - to military families in times
of need. They are: Army
Emergency Relief 866-878-6378. The Air Force Aid Society 800-769-8951. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance 800-881-2462.
Congressman for all Alaska
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