In Washington D.C., each government agency is proud to count veterans among their workforce. Everyone from the Department of Homeland to Security to those at the Department of Agriculture observes this day of remembrance in a unique way. And of course this is as big a day as their is for the VA.
For the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Eric Shinseki and Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth attended the traditional White House Veterans Day breakfast this morning, they then headed to Arlington National Cemetery for the wreath-laying and ceremony, where Assistant Secretary Duckworth led the Pledge of Allegiance. Assistant Secretary Duckworth then headed towards the National Observatory for the Vice President's luncheon for Veterans, while Secretary Shinseki is scheduled to attend a reception at the Mayflower Hotel hosted by the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Read an excellent profile of Secretary Shinseki out of the New York Times today. In addition, the Department is expanding its ability communicate online with Veterans and their families with the first phase of a larger web renovation project by redesigning the look and feel of the department's website and improving usability. The VA has also begun embracing new media by launching Facebook and Twitter pages for the department and each of its three primary administrations, along with a central YouTube page and a secon channel for its Health Administration. Over the coming months, the department has ambitious plans for what it hopes will eventually become a single online communications platform capable of supporting a central VA blog, individual and group employee field-based blogs, as well as entries submitted by users—from VA’s top leadership, to student-Veterans, to family members. The Department is convinced that reaching out using these techniques will greatly enhance their ability to both disseminate information and receive feedback from veterans effectively.
For those of you enjoying nicer weather than we are here in DC, know that the Department of the Interior has announced that areas managed by the department will not charge entrance fees today. As Secretary Ken Salazar put it, "The Department of the Interior is honored to offer this fee free day to thank our nation’s service men and women. The sacrifices and achievements of the brave men and women of our armed forces can never be understated. We invite all of our visitors to enjoy this fee free day and take time out on this national holiday to remember our service men and women who are currently serving overseas in harms way."
The Department of Homeland Security employs 47,000 veterans—25% of all civilian employees--in a number of capacities. Visit their site to learn more about the Department's efforts to engage the talents and dedication of our nation's veteran community. Also available is the press release introducing the new veterans website, designed to highlight veteran employment and contracting opportunities. Secretary Napolitano said the new website "reflects the shared commitment across the Department to hiring American veterans. Veterans play a vital role in the Department of Homeland Security's mission to protect the nation, and this website will help us build our veteran workforce to more than 50,000 Department-wide by 2012."
A moving slideshow currently headlines the Department of Defense website, highlighting the President's trip to Fort Hood, where he honored the 13 brave men and women killed in last week's shooting along with Defense Secretary Gates, Army Secretary John McHugh, left, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. amongst others. During the somber ceremony, President Obama and the First Lady comforted survivors and families. You can also read Defense Secretary Robert Gates' annual message commemorating the holiday, excerpted here:
Our nation cannot fully repay the debt owed our veterans and their families, but we can use this opportunity to reflect and remember what these brave Americans have done. David Lloyd George, speaking during the opening months of World War I, the conflict that began this day of remembrance, said: "The stern hand of fate has scourged us to an elevation where we can see the everlasting things that matter for a nation – the great peaks we had forgotten, of Honor, Duty, Patriotism, and clad in glittering white, the towering pinnacle of sacrifice pointing like a rugged finger to Heaven."
Visit the Department of Justice blog to learn about The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which works to protect the rights of those who have protected us – America's veterans – by enforcing laws that defend their employment, voting and financial security rights. Tracy Russo of DOJ writes, "The Department of Justice is proud to serve our Nation's service men and women. Through enforcement of veteran-specific statutes as well as state and local support offered in conjunction with our partners, we salute these Americans."