Today we celebrate and honor the service and sacrifice given to the United States by our veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 23.8 million living veterans in our country today, making up roughly 8 percent of the U.S. population. As a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, I am one of them. While my age is 36, the median age for all living veterans is 60 years old. It probably is safe to say that all of us know or have interacted with a veteran at some point in our lives, but as time passes and the veteran population decreases, these interactions will become far less frequent. That is why it is so important to take Veterans Day to honor those who have protected us in the past, and to remember those who are serving in harm's way today.
Today I shall be in New York participating in the Veterans Day parade with fellow members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). New York City has far fewer veterans per capita than Washington, D.C., and our presence there will be a reminder of what our veterans have contributed. While there, I will also be bringing attention to the Veterans Crisis Line, one of the programs I support as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It's a confidential, 24-hour hotline dedicated to assisting veterans in crisis.
If you are in Washington today and lucky enough to have a day off from work, I encourage you to take time to honor our veterans and attend some of the events happening around town. Here is a rundown:
9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.: Honoring African-American World War II Veterans, National World War II Memorial - The D.C. Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) will honor D.C. World War II veterans.
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden & D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray participate in the Arlington National Cemetery Veterans Day Memorial Service. This event includes a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Seating in the cemetery's amphitheater is limited, so visitors should plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the ceremony.
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.: Veterans Day Rock Rally honoring D.C. women veterans, THEARC Theatre, 1901 Mississippi Avenue SE.
1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.: Pacifica Radio Veterans Day Program With Acie Byrd - OVA Director Matt Cary and representatives from the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will reflect on what Veterans Day means to America and discuss issues veterans face as they come home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Ceremony -- this will take place at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall and will pay tribute to all who served and sacrificed during the Vietnam War and America's other conflicts.
Finally, I want to recognize the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for their ongoing commitment to local veterans. On November 14th, they will host their annual Military Open House, to recruit former and transitioning service members to fill hundreds of open positions as part of their "Metro Forward" rebuilding effort.