Lawmaker, decorated Marine to provide SRU Veterans Day address


veterans day iwo jima illustration

Nov. 7, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - After surviving a perfect "storm" of deadly combat in the Persian Gulf as a Marine, Pennsylvania State Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr., is coming to Slippery Rock University to hail the sacrifices of other veterans.

Jake Wheatley junior


Wheatley, D-Allegheny, a decorated veteran of 1991's Operation Desert Storm, will be the keynote speaker of SRU's Veterans Day Ceremony at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, at the Veterans Memorial in front of the Russell Wright Alumni House.

"Veterans Day ceremonies give us the opportunity to honor the men and women of our nation's military that have served our country so valiantly," said Wheatley. "Whether it was during a time of war or peace - at home or abroad - veterans sacrificed so that all Americans can enjoy the important freedoms that make the U.S. the great country it is."

SRU will begin the day by hosting a Veterans Day Breakfast from 8:30-10:30 a.m., in the Smith Student Center Ballroom. The event is open to the public

At the 11 a.m. event, Cheryl Norton, SRU president, will offer remarks and introduce Wheatley, while SRU ROTC cadets will raise the colors, lay a wreath at the memorial and fire a 21-gun salute. The SRU Marching Pride will play taps.

Wheatley said he accepted the invitation in order to thank veterans and advocate for veterans and their families who are struggling with the aftermath of war.

"I am in a unique position as an elected official and a U.S. Marine combat veteran," said Wheatley. "I have made fighting for my fellow veterans a major priority during my time in office. I am thankful to SRU for inviting me and allowing me to speak at its celebration honoring our veterans."

Some of the key issues facing veterans, Wheatley said, include post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness, depression and under employment.

"Veterans comprise 20 percent of suicides nationally, with approximately 22 veterans dying by suicide every day," he said. "That is simply unacceptable."

Wheatley added that veterans comprise 10 percent of America's homeless and of that number, many suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.

"Military service members and veterans, especially those in active duty, are exposed to traumatic events," said Wheatley. "We need to better assess veterans for PTSD, implement treatment planning strategies that support recovery, and make sure those taking care of veterans are trained to notice and deal with trauma-related injuries."

For his service during Operation Desert Storm, Wheatley received the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal. He was part of the multinational coalition of forces that responded to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

After an honorable discharge in 1992, Wheatley was first elected in 2002 to represent the 19th Legislative District, which includes historic Pittsburgh neighborhoods such as: the Hill District, North Side, South Side, Allentown, Hazelwood, Downtown, the Bluff, Knoxville, Beltzhoover, Manchester, Arlington, Arlington Heights, and West, South and North Oakland among others.

As a first-term legislator, Wheatley was identified by a nonpartisan highly recognized political website as one of six rising political stars to watch. In 2005, he was identified by as one of the 100 most influential politicians in the state. Most recently he was identified by a national political magazine as one of three Pennsylvania state representatives to watch as a political star. Wheatley was the second member ever to be selected to serve on the Appropriations Committee as a first-term legislator.

Additionally, Wheatley volunteers his time to several community boards, including: Hill House Association, NEED, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Youth Places, Pittsburgh's Stadium Authority Board, Southwestern Pennsylvania Planning Commission (SPC), Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Board, Three Rivers Arts Festival Board and Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc., and he is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Wheatley received a bachelor's degree in political science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and a master's of public administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

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