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Image“Year of The Veteran”

  :Philadelphia’s 2014 Tribute to Veterans

J.Smith/El Hispano

Philadelphia – Honoring the estimated 88,000 Veterans living in the Philadelphia area, some of them having served in the armed forces during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and more recently in the Middle East, City Councilman David Oh was joined by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Councilman Mark Squilla,Thursday, to announce the unanimous passage of a resolution declaring 2014,  “Year of the Veteran.”

  Noting that Philadelphia is the birthplace of the U.S. Army (June, 1775), the U.S. Navy (May, 1798) and U.S. Marine Corps (July, 1798), Councilman Oh said the goal of making this the year of the Veteran in Philadelphia was to “raise awareness” of veterans’ issues, and to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments of those “who put themselves in harms way, and were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect and preserve our liberties.”

  Noting that Philadelphia was the ‘first city” in the country to offer a tax incentive to businesses that hired returning veterans, Councilwoman Blackwell suggested the importance of recognizing that returning veterans frequently “face challenges” due injuries suffered during their service.

   “Veterans offer our city a talented and experienced pool of workers, leaders and neighbors,” added Councilwoman Blackwell.

    Councilman Mark Squilla lauded veterans who have “fought for our freedoms,” and offered a reminder of the upcoming “Veterans Wheelchair Games,” that will draw thousands to the city in August.

  “You Veterans are not alone in Philadelphia,” said the new Executive Director of the Philadelphia Advisory Commission on Veterans Affairs, Scott Brown.  “The groups you see here today are just a smidgen of what is offered to the veterans in this city.”

   A U.S. Navy Veteran who served from the mid-1990s to early 2000s, and member of the Southwest Philadelphia Legion Post, Mr. Brown acknowledged the service of Andre Mears, a U.S. Army Veteran who served in Vietnam and was Commander of the American Legion Latin-American Post 840.  

   Former Commander Andre Mears, along with the current Commander of Latin American Legion Post 840, U.S. Army Joe Melendez, former U.S.M.C.Commander Jose Rivera, U.S.M.C. George Perez and U.S.M.C. Juvencio Gonzalez, all Vietnam Veterans, are leading a concerted effort to win the Congressional Gold Medal for the service of the 65th Infantry Regiment of Puerto Rico, known better as the “Borinqueneers.”

    The Borinqueneers served in World War I, World War II, and made their most indelible historical mark during the Korean War, fighting in pivotal battles that garnered the praise of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and others.  The effort on behalf of the 65th Infantry of Puerto Rico has  resulted in highlighting the significant number of Puerto Rican soldiers who were serving in the military – often as Officers – during the Civil War.

  The event also highlighted the extraordinary success of a coalition that is led by Veterans outreach groups, Philadelphia Housing Authority and others, to help the growing number  of homeless veterans.  What had taken months to achieve just a year ago, today, this coalition of service organizations is placing Homeless Vets in housing within three to five days.