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A holiday message from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

SUN Columnist

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki:

“During this special Holiday Season — this season of giving and of sharing; this holy season of worship; this season of thanksgiving for the blessings of peace and liberty, this season of families gathering together in the warmth of familiar surroundings — we, at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), express our heartfelt thanks to the men and women of our Armed Forces for safeguarding us all. They and their families sacrifice so much for this Nation, and we are deeply grateful to them. We are equally honored to salute the more than 22 million living American Veterans who similarly distinguished themselves in years past. Their collective service is the bedrock of our Nation’s sovereignty and the guarantor of our security as a democracy. They bequeath to us the greatest gift of all — the freedom to decide how to live our lives. And in that gift resides the freedom to choose how to celebrate this special season.

“Our Holiday celebrations — whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or any of our other special observances — wave a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful” [Norman Vincent Peale]. This is a beautiful time of year, and an appropriate opportunity to reflect on our noble mission of caring for those who have borne the battle, and for their survivors.

“Three-and-a-half million Servicemembers have volunteered since the attacks of 9/11. Over one-and-a-half million of them have deployed to, and returned from, combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly a million Servicemembers will be leaving the ranks of the military in the next five years. They only ask that we give them the ability to choose how to live the rest of their lives. This is not just about our freedom. It is about theirs as well — the freedom they fought for. We have a mission because these courageous men and women have been willing to risk everything for us. Let us not disappoint them. They have done their duty; let us do ours, even better than they expect.

“On their behalf, we have accomplished a lot at VA. I have asked a great deal of every employee at VA–320,000 strong. You have given more than was asked or expected. It is a busy time with so much to accomplish for these young men and women, who stand today where some of us have stood in years past. I am indebted to each and every one of you — no matter where you work, no matter what you do, no matter that we may have never met. Thank you for serving VA so well. Thank you for caring for our Veterans the way you do. I wish you and your loved ones the most blessed of Holidays, much happiness, and good fortune in the New Year!

“May God bless each and every one of you. May God bless the men and women who serve, and have served, in uniform. And may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.

“Merry Christmas!”

Trust Fund

The Trust Fund Grant has directed a change of rules. All requests for travel/lodging reimbursement must have the following: Printed copy of appointment, copy of receipt for gas payment and/or receipt of lodging payment. Payment from Trust Fund will be to the amount on receipts: No receipt-no payment.

Ensure you apply for Travel through VAMC Albuquerque, whenever possible.

If a veteran is eligible for VA Travel payments, no reimbursements are authorized through the Trust Fund Grant.

Benefits

For information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa Street.

Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday, 10 a.m., Quality Inn.

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: every other Monday, 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministry (veterans): every Thursday, 9 a.m., Crossroad Church, 1044 Park Ave.

Contacts

Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7, 365 days a year. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.

This story was posted on December 27, 2012.