Helping Veterans and Troops Throughout Connecticut [Commentary]

March 14, 2011

This week I would like to share with you some information about two programs dedicated to those brave men and women who have served our country.

A few weeks ago, the State of Connecticut held what has again become an annual event, “Stand Down Day.” Nearly 500 veterans attended the event which was held at the Veterans’ Hospital in Rocky Hill.

Essentially, Stand Down Day is a day of ‘one-stop shopping for veterans, providing them with access to goods and services to help them in their daily lives. Services offered include free cell phone usage, hair cuts, assistance with DMV matters, a dental clinic, as well as access to officials at the Department of Labor and the Coalition to End Homelessness. It’s just one way that the State can give back to Veterans. They were there for us, so it’s only right that we are there for them.

The State Department of Veterans’ Affairs, led by Commissioner Linda Schwartz, did an exemplary job and planning and executing the event. The even set up a transportation system to drive veterans from all parts up the state to Rocky Hill to participate. I would also like to congratulate Governor M. Jodi Rell for reinstituting Stand Down Day last year, after it had been absent for four years.

Another great program that helps wounded and injured troops is Connecticut’s Operation Gift Cards. Since October 2005, the program has distributed 1,750 “Thank You” kits, which include $35,000 in military store gift certificates, to troops at Walter Reed and Bethesda Military Hospitals in Washington, D.C.

On visits to the hospitals, representatives from three units of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Marine Corps League visited wounded soldiers and personally thanked them for their service to their country. In addition to the “thank-you” kids, volunteers also deliver items that are on the soldiers’ “Wish Lists,” that have been donated.

Current members are working diligently to enlist other Connecticut Veterans’ organizations to join the program and collectively purchase additional gift certificates. The goal is to raise enough money to present each and every wounded soldier at both hospitals with at least one “Thank You” kit.

To participate in Operation Gift Cards or to make a corporate or personal donation, contact Al Meadows at (203) 929-3357 or Tim Kelly at (203) 937-3420. To donate money, make your check out to MOPH Chapter #1 (write in the memo area of the check “For Operation Gift Cards”) and mail to Burke Ross, 47 Christine Drive, Shelton, CT 06484-2503.

As a State, we are doing everything we can to ensure that we properly respect those who are serving currently overseas as well as those who have served in the past. It is wonderful to hear about programs like Operation Gift Cards, where veterans work so diligently to lend assistance to their fellow soldiers.

If you have any additional questions about these programs or about any state matter, please call my office toll-free at 1(800) 841-1421 or e-mail me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.