Skocik and Davis: This July 4, ‘don’t forget to remember the vet’


Dave Skocik is the president of the Delaware Veterans Coalition and the Friends of Delaware Veterans. Paul Davis is the vice president of the coalition and the president of the Delaware council of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“Duty, Honor, Country” will always beat in the hearts of the few who risk life and limb, regardless of branch of service or conflict. It’s been that way since 1776, when leaders of the Continental Congress declared our separation from the authority of the king of England, knowing it could become their death sentence.

Imagine if, rather than on July 4, our flag was displayed as part of the British empire each March to mark the 1819 birth of Queen Victoria, which Canada celebrates every year. At her death in 1901, it was said Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never sets. While our northern friends and neighbors are essentially self-governed, Canada remains a constitutional monarchy, with King Charles its ceremonial head of state.

As we celebrate the 248th year of our independence, the Delaware Veterans Coalition continues to focus its efforts on the recognition and acknowledgment of those who made our nation what it is and continue to do so. Our flag is known across the globe because of those who sacrificed, fought and died for the values it represents.

It would be a different world if the United States had not come to the aid of Britain in two wars or rebuilt much of Europe and Japan, fought communism in Korea and Vietnam, challenged the former Soviet Union during the Cold War and ceded the Middle East to tyrants seeking to destroy Israel, the only democracy in that region.

A proposal to create a new, statewide Department of Veterans’ Affairs received unanimous bipartisan support May 15. House Bill 399, sponsored by Rep. William Carson, D-Smyrna, and supported by 22 other bipartisan legislators, would have continued the current structure of the Commission of Veterans Affairs but placed it under a new secretary of veterans’ affairs rather than the Department of State, which is already tasked with multiple duties unrelated to veterans.

Multiple veteran leaders testified in support of the legislation that would bring focused attention to the needs of those who serve. Their testimony was met with a standing ovation. Unfortunately, while supporting legislation amounting to tens of millions of dollars in a $6.1 billion budget, Gov. John Carney and his secretary of state, neither of whom are veterans, opposed the less than $1 million request to increase veteran services.

Delaware veterans bring some 4 billion federal dollars to our state annually, and this bill was an opportunity to assist veterans in securing earned federal disability payments, additional federal medical treatment, suicide prevention services and enhanced attention to disabled veterans at the Delaware Veterans Home in Milford, which has had three administrators over the same number of years.

These issues, including veteran homelessness, are exacerbated by too few nationally accredited veteran service officers at a time of reduced recruiting during political turmoil in many areas of the globe. Ironically, a dedicated secretary would bring additional federal dollars available for the asking, via a veteran who understands the importance of caring for our defenders.

As every veteran knows, no one understands the needs and talents of a veteran more than another veteran. Since its establishment as a registered, nonpartisan lobbying organization in 2011, the Delaware Veterans Coalition has worked pro bono with legislators on both sides of the aisle on behalf of our state’s veterans of all conflicts. We also applaud the ongoing dedication of retired Kent County Superior Court Judge William L. Witham, the retired U.S. Army colonel who established the Delaware Veterans Treatment Court in 2011 and continues to advocate for it. The court has provided an alternative to incarceration for some 450 nonviolent veterans, who work with the courts, Veterans Affairs counselors and volunteering attorneys.

We do not endorse candidates but have been reaching out to leaders of Delaware’s 70,000 veterans and their families, including 33,000 in New Castle County, to make them aware of the need to shift advocacy for Delaware’s veterans to a new cabinet official dedicated to the needs of his/her fellow military members. At least 10 other states have already done so.

We are grateful for lawmakers and others who support veterans, but it’s time for those who serve our state and nation to be acknowledged beyond legislative tributes and passthrough legislation. While the 2025 budget is in the books, let’s enjoy a holiday of cookouts, family gatherings and fireworks, while others visit the graves of family and friends who paid for the freedom to enjoy it. Many veterans still avoid fireworks, which can trigger flashbacks.

Freedom isn’t free. The Delaware Veterans Coalition looks forward to starting over with our next governor and legislators, who “don’t forget to remember the vet.”

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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