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A Day to Honor Our Heroes

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reflects on the importance of helping our veterans enjoy all the freedoms they've fought hard to help preserve.

This Friday, as on Veterans Days past, we stand with the men and women who have served this nation in uniform and commemorate their achievements. As preparations are made for a week of USDA events and celebrations, I am reminded of the everyday courage and strength these men and women display, and without whom our great country would not be what it is today. While we can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to the service members who have been wounded and died while protecting our country, we should take time to recognize the more than 20 million living American veterans and offer special thanks to them for all they’ve done for us throughout the years.

About 6.1 million American veterans live in rural communities, making it the most highly concentrated population in the country. At USDA, we have worked with the rest of the Obama Administration to tackle a host of challenges facing our nation’s rural veterans. I described some of this work in my weekly column recently.  And we have made a point to hire more veterans to work at USDA in accordance with President Obama’s 2009 executive order on veteran employment. This year, nearly one quarter of our permanent hires have been veterans, bringing our number of USDA employed veterans to over 10,000.  I want – especially this week – to thank them and acknowledge their continued service to country.   

Earlier this week President Obama announced the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits, two provisions in the American Jobs Act that Congress is scheduled to consider soon and will encourage businesses to hire unemployed veterans. Also, the President announced three executive actions that will help veterans find jobs. This announcement is part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy.

Here at USDA, we’re celebrating Veterans Day with a number of activities including a fee waiver day for many day-use recreation sites at National Forests, a ceremony honoring military veterans, and a talk by legendary Tuskegee Airman, Dr. Ivan Ware. A more complete list of activities and descriptions can be found by visiting the USDA website

I hope you’ll join me this Friday in honoring our nation’s heroes and enjoying the freedoms they’ve fought so hard to preserve.