On Veterans Day, we honor all the people who have served our country in uniform. Theirs is a rich legacy, and I am proud to have worn the uniform of the United States Army for eight years.
Like all veterans, my family and I sacrificed a lot during and after the time I served our country in the military. As Americans, we have an obligation to take care of veterans and their families, and help them on the pathway to education, employment or entrepreneurship.
Today as governor, I know that our obligations are only beginning for those serving around the world and those transitioning out of the military. This is true especially in Virginia, where more than 714,000 veterans have chosen to make their homes.
My administration works every day to make sure that this is a welcoming and supportive state in which to live. We want Virginia to be the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.
We’re doing this by ensuring that veterans can easily get help accessing the benefits they earned. Our 34 veterans offices help them access service-connected disability benefits and health care.
Our Virginia Values Veterans program helps employers hire veterans. Veterans embody leadership and a strong work ethic, and employers prize these skills. That’s why our V3 partners have hired more than 52,000 veterans in the past seven years. And for those veterans who need to boost their job skills in the transition to civilian life, we’re working to connect them to education and skills training opportunities.
My family and I know how difficult military service, deployments and transitions to civilian life can be. It sometimes can lead to behavioral and physical health issues, and we want to be sure our veterans get all the support they need. Our Virginia Veteran and Family Support program helps by providing outreach, connections and support to address the challenges of military service.
It is especially critical to address mental health. More than 3,000 veterans and service members have died by suicide in Virginia since 2003. Nearly one-quarter of all suicide victims are veterans. In fact, 20 veterans die by suicide each day nationwide, according to the Veterans Administration — but only six were connected with the VA for care within the prior year. We are working hard to close this gap in Virginia.
This is the right thing to do for any of our fellow Virginians — but most of all for those who volunteered to serve our country, knowing they could be in harm’s way.
So on this Veterans Day, let us all say thank you to veterans. Virginia appreciates your service, and values your contributions — and we will continue working to make this the best state for you to call home.
May God bless you and your families.