PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 4, 2015 — Noting the significance of how veterans have fought to uphold the vision, dreams and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams said recently that it is appropriate to commemorate both.
“We celebrate a man of peace as we celebrate veterans,” Williams said during a Jan. 30 keynote address during the Philadelphia VA Medical Center’s day of observance. “It is most appropriate that we, individually, uplift you today.”
Williams told more than 100 of the facility’s staff, patients and community members at the center and via a simulcast to VA clinics in Willow Grove, Ft. Dix, Camden, and Gloucester that King’s fight for equality could not have happened had soldiers not put their lives on the line to uphold the freedoms that allow Americans to protest policies, discriminatory behavior, and terrorism.
“People from all backgrounds signed up to go to a place far from here” following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C. and in Pennsylvania, the senator said.
“The people who united together said, “We believe in what Dr. King believes, and we don’t want to hurt anybody but we’re not going to let you hurt us,” he said to an approving audience.
The VA Medical Center’s day of observance centered on the theme of “What Are We Doing For Others,” and it encouraged Philadelphians and veterans to think about what they have done and what they can do to help their neighbors.
The Philly facility provides health care, conducts medical research, trains health care professionals, and prepares women and men to serve in the event of a crisis or emergency.
Its 2,000 employees oversee the operation of a 145-bed acute care center and a 135-bed community living center.
More than 57,000 veterans are enrolled in the medical center’s health care program and the hospital logged 463,000 visits in 2012.
Thanks to the sacrifice of veterans and the peaceful, committed civil rights work of Dr. King, and the countless unnamed heroes who shared in his vision, Sen. Williams said African-Americans, like his year-and-a-half-old grandson, have the opportunity grow up in an increasingly boundless society.
“There’ll be no box around him, no limit around him, no one who will say, ‘No you can’t eat here or buy a car there or live here or work there’ because Dr. King led a civil rights movement and you have protected these rights,” Sen. Williams said.
The five-term lawmaker has introduced three bills in the General Assembly to help veterans live a better life throughout Pennsylvania:
- Senate Bill 38 would deliver up to $10,000 in grants to help veterans pay closing and down payment costs when buying a home.
- Senate Bill 37 would provide tax credits to businesses that employ veterans. And,
- Senate Bill 43 would enhance penalties if someone falsely claims certain military decorations in order to gain monetary benefits.
Williams has also worked with HELP USA to open the 61-unit Hardy Williams Veterans Center in Southwest Philly and provide shelter to homeless veterans and senior citizens.