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|Jim Holmes, a board governor with the Triton Hose Co., joins Sen. Baker in trying to stay dry at the Dennis Strong American Legion Post 457 Memorial Day Program in Tunkhannock.||Joanne Hummer and Carolyn Lanning selling poppies at the Harveys Lake American Legion Post 967 Memorial Day Ceremony.|
To our veterans. Thank you for your service. To our Vietnam veterans, we can never say this enough Ė welcome home.
Memorial Day is the most solemn of the civic observances on our American calendar. It is a time properly devoted to reflection and remembrance. We step back from the discord and division of daily life, and honor, with reverence and patriotism, those who helped keep us unified and secure in freedom.
We mourn those who died in service. We remember their names and stories. We are stirred by their courage and sacrifice. We are grateful for their duty and devotion. We place flowers on final resting places. We join hands and hearts in consoling all who miss them dearly. We appreciate the freedom we enjoy because of what they did and what they gave.
Each community decides how to best keep tradition in honoring the fallen. Whether a ceremony is held in the town square, at a cemetery, in front of a legion hall, at a monument, in a school or a church, it is the right place. It is what we say and what we do, in the presence of so many veterans and so many families of those who served, that make this an especially emotional and memorable day. Wherever we gather, it is important that those who sacrificed for our freedom hold an honored place in our hearts and memories. In this way, we are true to the spirit and purpose of what began as Decoration Day and is now Memorial Day.
One of my most cherished photos is of my great grandfather, a Union soldier wounded at the Battle of Chaffin Farms in Richmond wearing his Grand Army of the Republic uniform at a Memorial Day service in the 1920ís.
Each year, there are more names added for our expressions of gratitude and prayers for peaceful rest. Over the course of our national experience, whether lives were lost nearby, when this was the frontier of the colonies, or in a faraway place, we realize what was taken from us. We should respect why they fought, and recognize what they hoped would result from their duty.
In our democracy, we frequently debate where, when, and how to become involved. In todayís world, trouble seems to search us out. Terrorism targets our values, our institutions, and our citizens, creating risk everywhere. We are forced to deploy in the name of safety and security, and each year we suffer painful losses among the men and women serving.
What is beyond debate is the duty and devotion of those who served to protect freedom.
In the 241 years since American independence was declared, there are few times when there has not been conflict, challenge, intervention, or engagement somewhere. Today, we are in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, and in the Syrian conflict. Americans still serve in the many places where defense commitments date back to WW II and Korea. Vigilance has its risks and costs. The toll of protecting freedom is heavy. Just to read the names of those lost in conflict since the American Revolution commenced would take nearly a week. More than a million deaths. But this is not a day of statistics. It is about the individuals, the fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, who went to war and did not return.
Today, there really are no more unknown soldiers. Those who are lost, we know their names and their faces and their hometowns and their stories. It is not just left to families and friends and neighbors to mourn their loss and preserve their memories. It is personal to all of us, and it should be.
Memorial Day makes us think about something else very important. As the ranks of World War II and Korean War veterans thin, we are losing our last chance to hear what they did, why they served, what lessons they wish to impart. We are also losing their stories about those who did not make it back home. We should ask them, as we thank them for serving, and hope they are willing to share.
As long as we have groups such as the American Legion and the VFW organizing events, conducting advocacy, and representing the interests of veterans, the stories of sacrifice will never be forgotten. General John Logan, in his original proclamation of Decoration Day following the Civil War, noted that we honor the dead by tending to the care of the living. This charge veteransí groups fulfill faithfully and well, and when they ask for our help, we should respond.
We gratefully acknowledge the freedoms, the hope, and the opportunities, which exist in our local communities and across our land because of the sacrifices made by those we honor today. And in the responsible exercise of freedom, in utilizing the rights that come with citizenship, in participating constructively in our democracy, we in the most affirmative way say thank you.
Across our land can be found many touching monuments and markers. But the monument to these courageous men and women that we carry in our memories and our hearts is the highest tribute we can pay, that we think about them and care about them and our thankful for their legacy.
On this day, we offer two prayers for peace. We hope for peace for those who are in the hands of God, and we pray for peace here on earth that means we do not lose to war so many fine men and women.
|Sen. Bakerís great grandparents Adam and Jennie Calhoun on Memorial Day in 1922 at a cemetery in Philadelphia.||Sen. Bakerís great grandparents Adam and Jennie Calhoun in their early days.|
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is offering a Tax Amnesty Program, waiving all penalties and cutting in half the interest owed, through June 19, 2017. It is estimated some 862,600 taxpayers are eligible to participate. To find out if you are, click here.
Nearly 80 percent of those eligible are Pennsylvanians owing more than $2.1 billion in back taxes, with another 21 percent from out-of-state owing a total of $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth.
The 2010 tax amnesty program, only the second ever offered, generated $254.6 million from nearly 59,500 delinquent taxpayers. Those participating in the 2010 PA Tax Amnesty Program are not eligible for the 2017 program.
I recently addressed the Senate Finance Committee on legislation I introduced exempting eligible contributions to the stateís Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts from taxation. Additionally, the bill provides that any distributions from or changes to a PA ABLE account that are not subject to federal income tax will not be subject to Pennsylvania state income tax.
SB 677 serves as a companion piece to the ABLE Act I worked on last year, which allows for the creation of tax-exempt savings accounts specifically for people with qualified disabilities and their families.
The bill was unanimously approved by the committee and referred to the full Senate for consideration.
I joined along with Sens. Camera Bartolotta, Guy Reschenthaler and Judy Schwank, and officials from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to promote the #StopTheBleed campaign to bring attention to hemorrhage control kits during a rally in the Capitol Rotunda.
I encourage constituents to go to www.stopthebleedtoday.com to learn more about life-saving practices to prevent the injured from bleeding out during a traumatic event.
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