On June 19, we celebrate Juneteenth in commemoration of the day when all slaves in America were finally freed and the institution of slavery finally began to legally crumble across the entire country. Tomorrow, we will celebrate Juneteenth—for the first time as a national holiday— in commemoration of the day when all slaves in America were finally legally freed and the institution of slavery finally crumbled.

Even though President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, his presidential decree could only be enforced in places that were not under Confederate control, which meant that the 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas waited more than 2 years for freedom. On June 19, 1865, about 2,000 Union forces marched to Galveston, Texas and finally emancipated the last known community of Black slaves.

While Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, it is also a reminder that for too many and for too long, America has broken its core promise of freedom for all. Not only did the slaves in Galveston wait more than 2 years to enjoy the freedom granted to them by President Lincoln, but it was not until almost 6 months later when the 13th amendment was finally ratified, and slavery was truly abolished in all states. America aspired to become a more perfect union. Even then, the fight continued, and to this day Black Americans are still forced to fight for justice, dignity and respect.

Nevertheless, on June 19 we celebrate that moment at the height of summer 156 years ago when the Black slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally able to live as freedmen and freedwomen. We celebrate the 156 years since, during which the tenacity of pioneering Black Americans helped define our Nation and drive its progress, despite having to fight for basic rights guaranteed to all Americans. We celebrate the descendants of those pioneers, many of whom have signed up to protect and defend our country’s freedoms despite being denied the right to those same fundamental freedoms. And we thank our Black Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) teammates, who have answered the call to uphold our sacred obligation to Veterans, their families and caregivers.

On Juneteenth, we remember, we commemorate and we reflect on the long road to freedom forced upon Black slaves across America. We stand with those who have continued that fight ever since. Their resilience represents the best of us, and we at VA, will never forget their sacrifices to this Nation. America proudly celebrates alongside them.

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Published on Jun. 17, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2 min.

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  1. Loren Spotts June 24, 2021 at 11:22 am

    Hmmm? Are we to believe this is the most important issue the VA has to deal with?
    How about taking the money allocated for “sexual realignment” surgery (which might benefit a few) and use it to provide dental care for all veterans.that would benefit thousands?
    When will the VA healthcare system catch up with the rest of the world and realize nutrition is one of the most important parts of healthcare. You cannot get the nutrition you need if unable to chew your food.

  2. Randy Nordby June 23, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    Mr Secretary.
    You really should be far too busy working to be piddlefutzing your ego like this. I am your job, sir. This “message” you’ve graced my intellectually impoverished mind with – is not. I assure you sir, I do not ever look to anyone in your position for historical or social commentary. Not ever. I’m a fully grown socially aware person, as are most adults, and I even passed my eighth grade history class too. There’s only two “messages” I ever want to receive from the VA Secretary. First; the most recent update on exactly where the VA is deficient in the healthcare they are delivering to veterans. And Second; the plans, timelines, and progress on eliminating those deficiencies.

    No more. No less. Focus sparky, in your position really need to be a very very busy man. It does matter how you choose to spend your time.

  3. Victor Harris June 23, 2021 at 9:10 am

    That’s a good point. The dentistry directorate in general is lacking in innovation to protect veterans. They still use reusable dental handpieces the can potentially infect veterans with hepatitis and/or HIV. As previously reported several thousands of veterans have been exposed to these potential infections due to poor or improper sterilization of equipment. Why isn’t infection control departments mandated single-use dental handpieces to protect already vulnerable veteran population? That should be addressed, especially in this time of concern.

  4. Arnold Cabral June 18, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    To People and Veterans who read this can you please email your Senators or Representative asked them to contact the Veterans Affairs Committee passed a new Disabled Veterans Law who is lOO percent service connected need to have a Dentist knows how to put in G4implants for free because they don’t have one works for a Veteran Medical Centers Dentistry or have a contact with Veterans Affairs Administration and if a Disabled Veterans who is lOO percent service connected don’t get the G4implants it definitely cause really bad Swallowing Problems and really bad Hearts Problems plus really bad Gum Disease also if a Disabled Veterans who is lOO percent service connected for a Mental Illness it definitely cause really bad Anxiety Attacks and really bad Stress Attacks….Thanks for your Support and Stay Healthy and your Family as possible plus be careful of the Virus.

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