HUD Memorial Day Remembrance


PREPARED REMARKS FOR
ROY A. BERNARDI, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
WASHINGTON, DC
WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2008

Thank you. Good afternoon. I want to thank Under Secretary (William) Tuerk for joining us. And thank you, Mr. Under Secretary, for your keynote remarks.

I also want to thank the HUD employees who organized this event. Well done. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in giving the organizing committee a round of applause.

Each year we gather to honor those who have passed away in our own family and those who have died in defense of our country. We look in our hearts. We cherish fond memories of the departed. We place flowers on graves. We placed wreaths at sacred spots. We come together as a community, as a family. And, as a nation, we remember.

It is right and respectful that we honor those who sacrificed to keep our country safe. They made our peace and prosperity possible. They died so that we might enjoy the fruits of liberty and the solitude of security.

That's why we have come here today, to reflect and to honor Americans who have died in service to our country. And through those who have fallen, we also honor all who serve. We are fortunate that so many of our HUD employees are veterans. I would like to ask each person here who has served in the military to please stand and be recognized.

Thank you for standing. Thank you for your dedication and commitment. Memorial Day has a special importance to you because it is so profoundly personal.

It is personal for me, too. As a very young boy I remember my father coming home from the Second World War. I remember him in his naval uniform. He was an immigrant to this country, from Northern Italy, and proud - proud he served his new country to liberate Europe and Asia. And when he returned home, alive and unharmed, my mother wept with joy. And I was just coming into my consciousness trying to understand what was happening. I didn't really understand it all. As I grew older, I learned more about my father's sacrifice, and my pride for him, and for our country, magnified with the passing years. I agree with Tom Brokaw, that this was "the greatest generation."

I often think: "How did he do it?" How could he come here and so quickly place himself in harm's way? I'm sure we all ask such questions. But the answer is simple, an answer shared by every veteran: my father loved this country. His heart swelled because he was an American. And he knew that freedom has a price, and that price is bravely paid by the members of our military forces.

Sometimes those who serve experience difficulties. Some even become homeless. Well, our department is ready and willing to help. Last month, I was proud to announce a joint HUD/VA program to provide assistance for our nation's homeless veterans. This program, called HUD-VASH, or "HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing" program, will provide approximately 10,000 new vouchers for homeless veterans and their families.

Many of you know that the HUD-VASH initiative dates back to 1990. It was started by former VA Secretary Ed Derwinski and Buffalo's Jack Kemp, former Secretary of HUD. HUD provided the housing vouchers and the VA provided the needed case management services. But, the vouchers soon ended and we continued to serve veterans under other efforts. But, funding for VASH was restored by Congress for this current fiscal year (2008). And the level of funding, which is $75 million, allows us to reach about 10,000 veterans. This is a major expansion of the funding available for homeless veterans. Good news, indeed.

I am also pleased that the President has requested another $75 million in his new budget for Fiscal Year 2009. If approved, this would allow us to reach up to 20,000 homeless veterans.

I am hopeful that each one of you will join me in rededicating ourselves to finding the available means to reach out to our homeless veterans. We can think about this commitment every day, because this department still flies the flag for our Missing in Action. We were the first federal agency to do this. Let that flag serve as a constant reminder to help those who have served, and now need us, as we needed them.

We can rededicate our selves in another way. It is my duty, honor, and privileged to ask you to join in laying a wreath for the honored dead.

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