By JAY ROCKEFELLER
WASHINGTON -- Throughout my years of public service, some of my best conversations have been with our country's veterans. Maybe that's why I appreciate Veteran's Day so much.
Veterans are among our most selfless citizens, giving of themselves in ways most of us can hardly imagine.
On this Veteran's Day, it's important for us to set aside everything else to pause and honor those who have served and sacrificed so we may have the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans. This is a solemn day, and worthy of our reflection.
Although I'd like to see more people pay tribute to veterans all year, this one day is still symbolically very important.
It's impossible to fully repay our men and women veterans, but this day is important for us to show them and their families how much they mean to us and how much we admire them.
West Virginia has a proud history of military service. You remember Frank Buckles, of course. Frank was our nation's last surviving World War I veteran, a man who exemplified the courage, dedication, and patriotism of our past soldiers, as well as those of younger generations who continue to serve our great country.
We have lost too many men and women in too many wars, but West Virginians continue to answer the call of duty because they understand and value the price of freedom.
At this very moment, there are many West Virginians serving overseas, away from their families and loved ones. They get up every day and risk their lives, so that we may live in peace and safety. They guard our borders, come to our aid when disaster strikes, and defend us from terrorism.
Despite the heated arguments in Congress over deficits and spending this past year, we've been able to get some worthy projects completed for veterans in West Virginia.
Last fall, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the new Donel Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Institute -– a cemetery that, in its first phase, will honor approximately 60,000 veterans across southern West Virginia.
In April, we welcomed government officials, veterans and the staff of the Beckley Veterans Affairs Medical Center to dedicate the first veterans' clinic in Greenbrier County. The outpatient facility will serve as a primary care clinic for an estimated 2,400 veterans in Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas and Summers Counties.
And in Congress, I have been working on legislation to reduce unemployment among veterans in West Virginia and across the country. The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 would require job skills training for all service members returning home. It would also create new direct federal hiring authority so that more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military. At a time when more than one in four veterans aged 18-24 are unemployed, a focus on job skills training and veteran mentorship programs in the working world will be extremely valuable.
To that end I'm also working to pass a comprehensive jobs bill, which would help veterans by providing tax credits to businesses who hire unemployed veterans. That measure offers businesses $2,400 in tax credits for hiring veterans who are unemployed for more than four weeks but less than six months; $5,600 in tax relief for hiring veterans who've been unemployed for more than six months; and $9,600 in tax relief for hiring veterans who've been unemployed for more than six months and who have disabilities related to their military service. These tax credits make good sense for our economy, and they are the right thing to do for our veterans.
I want you to know that I will never stop fighting to provide for our West Virginia veterans. This has been my life's work and it is my honor to serve all of our veterans in every way I can.
And, to our veterans –- thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your service, your sacrifice –- and for your dedication to helping our communities stay vibrant and strong.
While we set aside a special day to honor our veteran's, let's never forget that serving our country is a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week job. And our veterans have done that with honor and distinction.
On this Veteran's Day, take a moment and say thank you -- but never forget to show your appreciation throughout your life. After all, you likely owe it to a veteran.
And that's worth celebrating each and every day.
Rockefeller is West Virginia's senior senator.