Corliss Smithen |
ST. THOMAS – Veterans living in the Territory were honored for their contribution to the nation during a ceremony at Roosevelt Park to mark Veterans’ Day on Friday.
Veterans and their families; government officials, including Gov. Kenneth Mapp, Deputy Gov. Osbert Potter and senators; and uniformed groups from the high schools and other youth organizations were present at the ceremony, which was preceded by a parade through the streets of downtown Charlotte Amalie.
In his speech, Mapp thanked the veterans for their service to the country.
“I want to say today to all of our veterans, thank you for your service. We understand, respect and honor your sacrifices,” Mapp said.
He said the freedoms and democracy Americans enjoy – as evidenced in the recently-concluded presidential elections – was largely due to the efforts of veterans.
“Our place as a beacon of democracy on the world stage is intact… Many of our veterans and many of the members of our armed forces have gone to hostile points to fight so other can enjoy a semblance of freedom and democracy in their land,” Mapp said.
Cognizant of the indelible service of veterans, Mapp said that the nation has much to do in ensuring that veterans are cared for and outlined several initiatives the Virgin Islands government has undertaken to assist veterans.
“The people of the Virgin Islands continue to try to fill the void in providing service to our veterans,” he said. “We buy land and make sure we sell it to veterans at a very affordable price so that they can have homes. We pay for their education at our university – bachelor’s and associate’s degrees… Virgin Islands veterans who must travel to Puerto Rico for services are expected to do that at their own cost and expenses. The people of the Virgin Islands, however, pick up the full 100% cost of the round trip for Virgin Islands veterans who are not suffering duty-related injuries to go on to Puerto Rico and to get their health benefits and services there.”
He said his administration intends to bring more medical services to the Virgin Islands to benefit the veterans.
Mapp also said there are plans to expand the cemeteries on St. Thomas and St. Croix to include a designated section for veterans “to honor those who have served.”
Currently, there are approximately 400 veterans living in the Virgin Islands.