U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick had the following to say in a Veterans Day email newsletter:
"Happy Veterans Day to all Americans who served our nation in times of war and peace," he said.
"This week I had the honor to travel to Afghanistan and Iraq in order to meet with our troops, assess progress and challenges, determine care, treatment and morale, and most of all say "Thank You" from our District and my constituents."
He also noted that he submitted the following letter to PhillyBurbs in honor of Veterans Day.
This week I had the honor to be in Afghanistan and Iraq to meet with United States Armed Forces personnel. The purpose of my trip was to ascertain morale and general welfare of the troops and to determine the status of training operations and the progress of the scheduled drawdown of U.S. Forces.
As the mission transitions from Department of Defense to State Department, the men and women of the military continue to serve us with honor and distinction. They are undoubtedly the best and brightest military force and they continue to do a difficult job; so on this Veterans Day we say thank you to every one of them - past veterans and those currently serving.
As part of my visit, after meeting soldiers at operational bases where they serve, I spent a day at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital outside the United States, speaking with wounded warriors from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The brave soldiers of Landstuhl told stories of combat, courage, patriotism and service. Many are on their way home to America where families and friends await along with a new host of challenges and opportunities. The strength of a nation is best judged not only in military might but in the care and concern it places in its returning veterans, and the opportunities it provides to them.
For those who have been physically or emotionally scarred by their service, for those who find it difficult to reintegrate, and for those who, despite best efforts and enviable skills, can't find employment - you deserve better and our Nation's obligation remains unfulfilled.
Last week I discussed the service of Vietnam Veteran John Griffin, a former Bucks County resident, on the floor of the US House of Representatives. I ask that you take a moment to read his story:
This past Flag Day, I was handed a pouch containing spent shell casings from a memorial service at the National Cemetery. The casings were from the service of U.S. Army Veteran John Griffin who was buried at National Cemetery at Washington Crossing earlier this year. John served our nation in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. He passed away in February of this year at a nursing home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania and for some period before John entered the nursing home, he was homeless.
Homelessness is a problem facing many Americans today, but it is particularly acute in the veteran community. While less than 10% of the population of the United States are veterans, they comprise 25% of the entire homeless population.
All told, the Veteran’s Administration estimates that there are 107,000 homeless veterans nationwide. Among a population that have devoted themselves to the service of their nation, these numbers are unacceptable.
John’s service was not attended any relatives or friends. The National Cemetery holds monthly services for veterans who are laid to rest without the presence of their families. At this service, the flag that draped John Griffin’s coffin was accepted by a group of women from the community who have undertaken this role to provide a measure of respect and recognition to those who have passed.
In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln, looking to the wounds that needed to be healed as the Civil War drew to a close charged our nation “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.” This is a duty we must not take lightly.
I do not know with any certainty, what, if any root causes led to John Griffin’s homelessness, but I am certain that our nation owed him better. We owed him more than a makeshift camp in the local woods. We must rededicate ourselves to the service of those who served our nation.
The care of our veterans should be a source of pride for our nation, but it also helps secure our nation. This truth has been recognized as early as the founding our republic when George Washington aptly observed, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
The story of John Griffin is not rare, but we must work to make it so because among the men and women who sacrificed and risked their lives in the service of our nation, one homeless veteran is too many.
I challenge the Congress and the Administration to live up to the promises made long ago and to meet the advice given by General Washington and President Lincoln regarding obligations to those who served. Whether it is the vigorous pursuit of an undetermined VA claim, breaking through the bureaucracy on behalf of the family of a currently deployed soldier, or the gentle advice and care for a homeless veteran referred to my office, I and my staff stand always prepared to do our best to honor veteran service through diligent and compassionate service in return.
Member of Congress