While most of my weekly updates are written in a light tone, this week’s comes on a somber one and with a heavy heart. This Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Two decades ago, nearly 3,000 lives were lost, and what it meant to be an American was changed forever. Our nation is no stranger to conflict, but never in our history had there been such a massive and unprovoked attack against innocent civilians. The attacks were meant to strike terror into our hearts and demolish the sense of security that was so integral to the American way of life.
Overnight, a new lens of fear was placed over how we see gatherings, our neighbors and our place on the world stage. This lens, along with so many sociopolitical aftereffects, are still felt today. Only two weeks ago did we formally withdraw from Afghanistan. Our presence there, which was a direct result of these attacks, will be felt on both sides for decades to come. I did two deployments in Afghanistan myself. There were many who did the same and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice. As we move forward from this tragedy as a country, we must never forget those we lost on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as those lost in subsequent conflicts. It is paramount that we honor their memory as we ponder our country’s new place in the world and what it means it means to be an American.
To honor those lost, I have been and will be attending various events in the Valley, including a ceremony with the Westfield Fire Department, a vigil Friday evening with veterans organizations, a memorial car show at Liberty Manor, a wreath-laying for the families from Westfield who lost members in the towers, and a community ceremony at the Sons of Erin’s memorial.
This week I also attended another virtual symposium for my National Council of State Legislators Opioid Fellowship. I, along with medical experts and other state legislators, discussed the different aspects of policy regarding substance abuse and how we can best use legislation to combat this epidemic. As the vice chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recovery, this fellowship is something I take very seriously as the Legislature considers opioid-related legislation, and I’m looking forward to the next round of talks.
The Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee also held a hearing this week. As Senate chair of this committee, I presided over the hearing, where we heard testimony from both constituents and lawmakers on a myriad of bills. One bill of note was S2462, an Act to establish a Medal of Fidelity. This bill, if passed, would establish a Medal of Fidelity to be awarded to the next of kin of veterans who passed away from deployment-related events outside of combat, such as burn pit exposure or mental health issues, after returning home.
There was also a “glendi’ this week, and for those of you who are not of Greek descent, it’s a word that translates as “celebration.” This glendi was held by the Greek Cultural Center of Springfield and was meant to celebrate all things Hellenic. It is typically a weekend-long celebration of food, music, and culture, and I was glad to stop by in Springfield to participate. ??? ??????!
As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my office. I can be reached at my email, [email protected], or by phone, 413-572-3920, and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.
John Velis, D-Westfield, represents Agawam, Easthampton, Granville, Holyoke, Montgomery, Russell, Southampton, Southwick, Russell, Tolland, Westfield and part of Chicopee in the state Senate.