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USDA Celebrates Veterans Day, Honors More Than 10,000 Veterans Working At USDA

Multiple Activities Focus on Our Nation's Service Men and


WASHINGTON, November 8, 2011 – In the time-honored tradition of standing with those who have served this nation in uniform, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is hosting a number of activities this week to recognize the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and coastguardsmen who so ably serve. Their selfless and courageous contributions over generations mean that Americans enjoy the freedom and liberty our founders imagined.

"Today, we commemorate America's veterans and their achievements," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "We can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to the service members who were wounded or died in battle. We can, however, recognize and thank the more than 20 million living American veterans. And we can offer special thanks and acknowledgment to the more than 10,000 veterans working at USDA."

USDA has a strong connection with those who have served in uniform. Today, about 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities – a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country. The Department has increased the number of veterans hired each year since President Obama signed an executive order on veteran employment in 2009. This year, nearly one quarter of its permanent new hires are veterans.

Earlier this week President Obama announced the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits, two provisions in the American Jobs Act that Congress is scheduled to consider this week. Also, the President announced three executive actions that will help veterans find jobs. This announcement is part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy.

The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides firms that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran. The Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities with a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.

The following Veterans Day activities are taking place this week at USDA and its agencies:

The USDA Forest Service is waiving fees at most of its day-use recreation sites over Veterans Day weekend. The fee waivers are offered in cooperation with other federal agencies under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. Day-use fees will be waived at all standard amenity fee sites operated by the Forest Service. The fee waiver days support the goals of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative and First Lady Michelle Obama's " Let's Move Outside."

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is hosting a ceremony November 7 honoring our agencies military veterans, and learning about the unique role that NIFA is playing in regards to the military community and their families. The ceremony will include a "Posting of the Colors" by the Joint Base Andrews Honor Guard, as well as NIFA veterans discussing each respective branch of service. A moment of silence will be observed to honor all of those who have served and sacrificed for our great nation.

USDA's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services is privileged on November 9 of being inspired by a living legend of America's military history – Dr. Ivan Ware -- an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen. Tuskegee Airmen generally refers to the all-black 332nd Fighter Group, trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, whose success in escorting bombers during World War II is a record unmatched by any other fighter group. Dr. Ware went on to serve as part of another legendary operation, the Red Ball Express, which was the convoy supply lifeline to troops in the field across Europe. The outstanding performance of the Tuskegee Airmen and the primarily African-American Red Ball Express operation made vital contributions toward civil rights and the ultimate integration of the U.S. military.

A Department-wide Veterans Day observance in USDA's Jefferson Auditorium will be held November 10, "Honoring All Who Served." Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will speak.

Secretary Vilsack's weekly column commemorated Veterans Day


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