Freeholders highlight services for 25,000 veterans living in Burlington County

Burlington County Freeholder Dan O’Connell, left, awards a veteran a county service medal during a ceremony in 2019.

The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders highlighted many of the county services and benefits offered to veterans and military families as part of their commemoration of both Veterans Day and Military Families Appreciation Month.

“Nov. 11 may be set aside as Veterans Day, but it’s my heartfelt belief that we should be honoring our veterans and active duty and reserve service members every single day of the year,” Freeholder Director Felicia Hopson during the board’s Nov. 12 meeting, according to information provided by the county on Nov. 17. “While we know we cannot ever fully repay our veterans for their military service, our county has made it our priority to do everything in our power to let these men and women know how special and  appreciated they are. And our county’s Veterans Services unit does a great job assisting our county’s veterans with their paperwork and with advocating to make sure they each receive all the benefits they are eligible for.”

There are close to 25,000 veterans residing in Burlington County, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Only Ocean and Monmouth counties have larger populations of veterans, according to the statement.

In addition to the large veteran’s populations, Burlington County is home to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey’s largest military installation and the site of more than 40,000 dedicated service members and civilian defense employees.

Burlington County’s Veterans Services team was created by the freeholder board to help meet the needs of all veterans and service members. The unit works closely with veterans organizations and officials at the Joint Base to keep veterans a service members informed and also advocates for county veterans and assists them with case work related to their benefits, according to the statement.

In addition to benefits assistance, Burlington County service medals are presented to veterans who were honorably discharged and now reside in our community.

Burlington County also operates a cemetery care program that maintains the veterans’ grave sites in over 96 cemeteries in the county and places new flags on the graves before Memorial Day.

The Burlington County Sheriff’s Department provides veterans with a free veteran photo ID cards that identify them as having served in the nation’s armed forces. This ID card, when shown at local businesses and restaurants, offers discounts and benefits reserved for veterans and military personnel, according to the statement.

The Burlington County freeholders created a program at the animal shelter for local heroes. The Pets for Vets initiative waives adoption fees for veterans and service members. Last year, the shelter adopted 280 dogs and cats through this program, according to the statement.

“These services are among the small ways we as a county try to say thank you to our veterans and to let them know how welcome they are here,” Freeholder Dan O’Connell said in the statement. “The same applies to our active-duty and reserve service members and their families.”

The freeholders are engaged in efforts to maintain a high-quality of life for service members and civilian defense employees through the Burlington County Military Affairs Committee, a nonprofit organization created by the freeholders in 1987 to act as a liaison between the Joint Base’s commanders and the county and surrounding communities, according to the statement.

Members of the freeholder board also are active participants in the regular Commanders Lunch organized by the Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Operation Yellow Ribbon welcome home events for service members returning home from overseas deployments, according to the statement.

“Burlington County is a great place to live, work and raise a family and one of the big reasons why is the military installation in our backyard and the jobs and families connected to it,” Hopson said in the statement. “Like our vets, we owe these families a tremendous debt of gratitude and we must continue to take steps to provide them with the support and resources they need and deserve.”