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State Representative Mark Gillen

Summer 2011: Special Senior Edition

PRSRT STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID HARRISBURG, PA PERMIT NO. 432

Here to Serve RemembeRing the 70th AnniveRsARy of PeARl hARboR


Dear Friends, Two of the most significant influences in our lives are parents and grandparents. My grandmother was born in 1894 and was a pillar in my own life until her death in 1992. The memory of her wise counsel and love of country and family will remain with me as long as I have breath. My own World War II veteran dad is also long gone, but his teenage service to America gave me a template for my own civic service. At 85, my mom is still very much with us and continues to inspire me with her focus on others first. This newsletter is dedicated to them and the seniors in our community who also love their country and are committed to making Berks County a better place for their own families.

Special Interview with Pearl Harbor Survivor Lyle Koenig


Why the dickens is that ship upside down? Lyle Koenig, stationed aboard the destroyer USS Aylwin, was almost done with his morning watch in the engine room when the alarm rang out. It had been a quiet Sunday morning for the crew of the Aylwin; most of the officers were on shore leave. Up on deck, Koenig saw the training ship USS Utah upside down. A split second later, he heard machine gun fire. All thoughts that this might be a drill evaporated when he saw a Japanese plane with the rising sun insignia on it. Then I knew we were at war. The smaller ships werent primary targets the Japanese were looking for the aircraft carriers, and, not finding them, went after the battleships: The bigger the ship, the fatter the target, Koenig said. Immediately, the Aylwin was instructed to leave harbor: We didnt have any time to worry. While they were leaving, their captain, on shore, commandeered a small boat, desperate to rejoin his ship. But the admiral of the USS California waved the Aylwin out. They knew there were enemy subs in the harbor, and the first priority was to get out of harms way. An ensign stole the ship and wouldnt pick the captain up! Koenig chuckled. And we got away with it, too! The crew of the Aylwin immediately began looking for subs. They dropped depth charges outside the mouth of Pearl Harbor, then joined up with the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and acted as an escort, arriving back in harbor the night of Dec. 8. When asked about the state of mind of the sailors, Koenig said, Mad. Angry. That we were hit like that. (Continued on Page 2)

Mark Gillen

State Representative 128th Legislative District

Save these Dates!


Chillin with Gillen Senior Ice Cream Social: Sept. 8 Miller-Keystone Blood Drive at Dairy Queen: Sept. 15 Berks Encore Senior Expo: Oct. 25 Details inside.

Pearl Harbor Survivor

(Continued from Page 1) Lyle married his wife, Erma, in 1944. When asked how the sacrifices impacted them on the homefront, she shrugged off the question: You did [sacrifice] and you didnt think anything of it. In the years after World War II, Lyle and Erma have been back to visit Pearl Harbor. While they thoroughly enjoyed Hawaii, it was sobering to think about the memorial above the sunken USS Arizona. They have watched the deterioration of the ship, causing drops of oil to slowly seep out of the tanks and rise to the surface, and reminding them of the 1,177 people still on the Arizona, more than half of all the casualties on that day. To the Koenigs, it serves as a reminder that we today need to be vigilant and to remember. The motto of the survivors is Remember Pearl Harbor. Erma said, Ill never forget it as long as I live. It remains to us to keep that memory alive, to honor those patriots who fought and died.

Koenig tried to enlist in the Navy following his high school graduation in 1939. He passed the physical, but was denied because he was a quarter inch under the height requirement. Then, on Sept. 1, Hitler invaded Poland. Suddenly, a quarter inch didnt matter quite so much. By Sept. 9, he was an apprentice seaman in the Navy. In Koenigs words, It took Hitler to get me into the Navy. His upbringing on a dairy farm in northern Berks prepared him for the rigors of military training. It was a walk in the park! he said, compared to walking behind a plow, farming the family fields. Koenig was on the receiving ship USS Oklahoma for three days before being sent to the Aylwin. Im glad they didnt keep me, he said. The Oklahoma was one of three ships that were completely destroyed in the sneak attack. He served in the Navy from 19391945, most of the time spent at sea. I joined the Navy to see the world but all that I did see was the sea!

senior farmers market nutrition Program


One of the things that my family and I enjoy most about summer in Pennsylvania is the abundance of locally grown produce at farmers markets. The Berks County Office of Agings Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program helps eligible seniors take advantage of the bounty of local crops. If you are at least 60 years old, or turning 60 by the end of this year, and meet minimum household guidelines (one person: $1,679 per month; two person: $2,268 per month), you may be eligible to receive $20 in vouchers to be used at designated farmers market stands for local fruits and vegetables. For more information, or to enroll in the program, contact the Berks County Office of Aging at 610-478-6500.

honoring servicemen and Women


Thanks in large part to the dedicated efforts of a constituent from Wyomissing, I was pleased to co-sponsor and help pass House Bill 1269. HB1269 provides for special license plates for veterans who have been awarded the Bronze Star, Bronze Star for Valor, or Silver Star, as well as those who have received the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross. HB 1269 passed unanimously and is currently in the Senate Transportation Committee. When the Senate reconvenes in the fall, I hope to see this important legislation passed into law so that these plates are available to veterans across Pennsylvania.

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Senior CitizenS and VeteranS


benefits sessions
It was an honor to have a large number of veterans in our district come out for our Mobile Vet Event on May 26. For those of you who were not able to attend, the Berks County Department of Veterans Affairs will begin hosting VA benefits information sessions at the Berks Encore-Birdsboro on the second Wednesday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon. The session is free, so come out and take advantage of the wealth of information available from the Berks VA center. For more information, or to learn about other locations for these free sessions, contact the Berks VA office at 610-378-5601.

lebanon vA hospital transportation


Do you travel to the VA hospital in Lebanon? If so, theres a program that can help get you there. The Veterans Transportation Services, part of the Berks County Chapter of the American Red Cross, will transport, free of charge, any Berks County resident who is a veteran and needs to get to the Lebanon VA hospital. The vans run Monday through Friday, and they pick you up from your home. The vans are driven solely by volunteers. To join their ranks, or to sign up for a ride, contact the Red Cross at 610-375-4383.

Program extension for Property tax and Rent Rebates


If you are not already aware, the deadline for the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program has been extended until Dec. 31. I encourage those who are eligible to take advantage of this program. The property tax bills that we all got in the mail recently were a big reminder of the need for a change to the system. I am actively working toward the day when not just seniors, but all Pennsylvanians, are freed from the crushing burden of property taxes. The House and Senate passed legislation that eliminated many of the reasons school boards use in order to raise your property taxes and substantially restricted the remaining reasons. I am supporting legislation that will give school districts flexibility with costly state mandates. I am currently pursuing legislation to use the revenue from slots and table games so more funds are dedicated to phasing out property taxes. I believe that complete property tax elimination is the only answer, and I will continue to fight to achieve that reality. I want you to know that this issue is close to my heart. I recently helped a senior citizen get her house prepared for sale so she can move to Florida because she could no longer pay the property tax bills. I am heartbroken to see people leave Berks County. Help me keep the pressure on the PA Legislature to change our system and reverse the course that we are on. The Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program is open to senior citizens age 65 or older, widows/widowers age 50 or older, or permanently disabled homeowners and renters receiving Supplemental Security Income payments who are age 18 or older. Households must have incomes less than $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 a year for renters. All income must be counted, but seniors and permanently disabled individuals only need to count half of any Social Security income.

Happy 100th Birthday!

I recently hosted the Mobile Vet Center at our Berks County district office. The event allowed military veterans and their families from the area to ask questions and receive information about programs and services tailored specifically for them. I had the opportunity to meet with and talk to veterans outside the Mobile Vet Center. As the son of a World War II veteran, I hold a special place in my heart for all United States military veterans.

I recently had the honor of presenting a House of Representatives citation to Kitty McDonnell in honor of her 100th birthday.

In Memory of Kyle Pagerly

Announcing the veterans memorial Wall


Because we must never forget the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform, I decided to dedicate a portion of my office as a Veterans Memorial Wall, memorializing our veterans such as Staff Sergeant Sean Flannery. It serves as a daily reminder to my staff and I that none of us would be here were it not for their service. If you are a veteran, I would like to invite you to be a part of this effort. During the Senior Expo, we will provide 4-inch by 6-inch index cards for you to write down one of your service memories. If you would like to bring your own index card or a duplicate photo from home, you are also welcome to do so. All items will be displayed in a photo album in my office. Size should not exceed 4-inch by 6-inch (two-dimensional only, please) and items cannot be returned.

SenIor expo oct. 25th


Its that time again! Oct. 25 will be the 11th Annual Berks Encore Senior Expo at the Body Zone. My office is already busy getting materials and resources ready to share with seniors at this event. My staff and I will be on hand to meet seniors and help answer questions about state government. Be sure to come visit our booth!

CHILLIN WITH State Representative GILLeN


Mark your calendars! I will be holding two events this summer, complete with free ice cream, for you to meet your representative, talk about legislative priorities, and even benefit a good cause.

Ice Cream Social


When: Thursday, Sept. 8, 10:30 a.m. to noon Where: The Mifflin Senior Center 30 Liberty St., Shillington Come make your own ice cream sundae and discuss your legislative priorities with me.

FREE ICE CREA M

Miller-Keystone Blood Drive


When: Thursday, Sept. 15, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Where: The Dairy Queen near Shillington at the intersection of Routes 625 and 724. Dairy Queen is generously giving a free ice cream cake to each blood donor. Feel free to stay and chat with me about issues of interest to you. Please call our office at 610-775-5130 to schedule a donor appointment.

Here to Serve
If we can be of assistance to you, please dont hesitate to call or stop by our district office. We are here to serve.
Where to find us... The district office for the 128th Legislative District will continue to be in the same location at the Flying Hills Village Center off Route 10. Come visit us at 29 Village Center Drive, Suite A 7, Reading, PA 19607. The phone number for the district office also remains the same: 610-775-5130. What Our Office Can Provide For You... Services for seniors: PACE, Property Tax and Rent Rebate, $10 vehicle registration Information about legislation pending and passed in the state Capitol PennDOT forms Copies of birth and death certificates Pennsylvania laws related to firearms Pennsylvania road maps Personal estate inventory books

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