The “first national” Thanksgiving was declared in York, Pennsylvania in 1777. During the American War for Independence, Philadelphia was captured by the British– forcing the Continental Congress to move to York. The new location is where Congress learned of the victory at the Battle of Saratoga– a decisive turning point in the war. This prompted the first declaration of “a day of Thanksgiving” to be held on Thursday, December 18, 1777. 
With Thanksgiving approaching, I am particularly grateful for the service and sacrifice of our servicemembers and their families. Many military families will prepare for their holiday meals with the support of their local commissaries and post exchanges (PX). Commissaries and Post Exchanges are a component of the essential Moral Welfare and Recreational (MWR) services that enhance the lives of soldiers and their family members. I support the construction of the relocated Commissary and PX in Moon Township, PA which will be a part of the Pittsburgh Area Military Community that will aid our servicemembers and their families both on duty and at home.
As I reflect on what I am thankful for this holiday, I will remember the great sacrifices that have been made by our men and women in uniform who bravely choose to protect and defend their country. As many servicemembers spend their holiday away from their families, they can be comforted by knowing they are in our thoughts and hearts.
When I meet with Pennsylvanian servicemembers, veterans, and their families, I am always humbled by their remarkable patriotism, resilience, and sense of duty. Military families understand what it means to answer the call of duty, rising above and beyond, to serve our nation. Strong families clearly form the backbone of our strong military. I believe that supporting military families is crucial to the wellbeing of our servicemembers and the quality of our all-volunteer force.
As we celebrate Military Families Appreciation Month, I want to highlight just a few of the organizations and resources available to support Pennsylvania’s military families.
The Army Strong Community Center in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, works to strengthen our armed service through effective community support for military families.
Operation Military Kids in University Park, Pennsylvania, works to support the estimated 32,000 Pennsylvanian children who have a parent serving in the military.
Operation Homefront is a nationwide organization with an office in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. They work to provide families with “relief during a crisis, a place to recover, and recognition for a life of sacrifice.”
The Pennsylvania Military Family Relief Assistance Program works with the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in Annville, Pennsylvania. PA MFRAP “provides financial assistance, in the form of grants, to eligible Pennsylvania service members and their eligible family members.”
The Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, “provides scholarships and grants to needy Lehigh Valley military families; sponsors public events to foster patriotism and respect for those that have served and are still serving in the US Armed Forces; supports local military units and activities.”
The Armed Services YMCA has partnered with the Department of Defense to provide child care services to military families.
The American Red Cross in Reno, Pennsylvania, “provides emergency assistance, public education, disaster assistance, military services which include emergency communications between the services person and his/her family, financial assistance for service persons on emergency leave and support groups for the military families.”
The Pennsylvania National Guard Foundation is a “charitable organization serving the Pennsylvania National Guard, its soldier, airmen, and families.” This foundation supports fundraising efforts and projects to assist the Pennsylvania National Guard, its personnel and families.
In addition to these organizations, my office is always ready to assist. I appreciate hearing from all Pennsylvanians on issues that are important to them.
This November, we are celebrating Military Family Appreciation Month, a time when we will recognize and honor those brave men and women who support our servicemembers. Pennsylvania has a long and storied association across every branch of the U.S. military, and is home to the nation’s third-largest Army National Guard and fourth-largest Air National Guard.
The spouses, children, parents, families, and friends who form the support network for our fighting men and women are unsung heroes. They have made, and continue to make, tremendous sacrifices so that the rest of us are able to live in a free and safe society, and I am deeply grateful.
I believe that promoting strong military families is crucial to the wellbeing of our servicemembers and the quality of our all-volunteer force. I am a proud member of the Senate Military Family Caucus, which works to examine and address the unique challenges faced by military families in the areas of employment, education, childcare and healthcare. Military families play an essential role in supporting our men and women in uniform, and they deserve our full support.
With Veteran’s Day approaching, I am reminded of something my father said, “We pray for military families and for their loved ones serving around the globe; we also pray for ourselves, that we may be worthy of their valor.”
As we celebrate November as Military Family Appreciation Month, I encourage all Pennsylvanians to honor the special commitment and sacrifice that our servicemembers and their families make to keeping this great country safe.
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit the U.S Army Reserve’s 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Headquarters in Coraopolis. While I was there, I met with military families and representatives from the surrounding local military units. We discussed the challenges that the spouses, children, and family members of our soldiers face every day.
Kathy Kling, PA Chapter President of Blue Star Families, shared her personal experienced of being a military spouse for the last seven years. I was extremely moved when she told the story of the pain that her 4 year old daughter felt when her husband was deployed. Even though, there are difficulties with being a military spouse, she showed her pride for her husband and his service to our country. I was truly moved by the stories and the untold heroism of these families. I know that behind every good soldier is a strong support system that deserves our honor, support, and thanks for their sacrifice.