September 29, 2015

Camp Dawson Gold Star Family Weekend Kicked Off With Senator Joe Manchin, VA Secretary Robert McDonald | Preston Country News and Journal

KINGWOOD — U. S. Sen. Joe Manchin and U. S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald kicked off the Gold Star weekend at Camp Dawson on Friday afternoon with an address to the nearly 75 people of West Virginia’s fallen military.

“I loved being here in West Virginia today,” McDonald said. “We flew all over the state, and it is beautiful. There is a lot of timber in West Virginia.

“The people in this state are the most patriotic, and I had the privilege to see that today,” McDonald said. “Per capita, West Virginia has the highest rate of any state of military, and I am humbled to be in your presence.”

McDonald said a lot of information was shared with him regarding the programs in the VA, and while the waiting list for services went from 800,000 to 68,000, there is still a long way to go.

“I will share that information in Washington, D.C.,” McDonald said. “The most important thing I have learned today is hearing the progress we have made in the VA, but to have one veteran homeless or not getting the care he/she needs is one too many, and we are working to correct that.”

While addressing the crowd, McDonald said while he is a military veteran, he sometimes feels inadequate, and notices other veterans feel that way also.

“I think all those who served feel inadequate,” McDonald said. “I never served in active duty and feel inadequate to those who did. Then I speak with those who were deployed, and they feel inadequate to those who were injured.”

“We all know of our brothers and sisters in cemeteries who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he finished. “That knowledge makes the injured feel inadequate.”

Manchin thanked McDonald for visiting the state with him on Friday, assuring the Gold Star families no one has given more to their country than veterans.

“I brag about you all the time,” Manchin said. “No state has given more of themselves than the state of West Virginia. We have more veterans, and for Secretary McDonald to come and tour our state is a great honor.”

After the ceremony, Manchin said how good it is to have McDonald at the head of the VA.

“We thought we were serving our veterans, and then we found out we weren’t,” Manchin said. “That shook us to the core. We are blessed to have a secretary with military and corporate experience.”

McDonald said he was impressed by some of the programs used to decrease opioid use, including yoga, equine therapy and the need to open a clinic in Beckley.

“Today, I learned about an agricultural program in West Virginia helping veterans,” McDonald said. “I want to learn more about that and expand upon it once I get back to Washington, D.C.”

Manchin said he would like to see United States citizens decrease their use of opioids.

“We need to stop going to a pill bottle for pain relief and instead go to something else,” Manchin said.

The Gold Star Weekend is around the last weekend of September at Camp Dawson and is designed for families of fallen military heroes in every state.

We have 43 fallen heroes in West Virginia,” U.S. Army Captain Jason Freeman said. “This weekend provides fellowship to families, mothers, fathers and children of those and to feel the closeness and the bond created.”

By:  Theresa Marthey