For 10 days at the end of February, I was fortunate to travel to Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East on an important fact-finding mission: listening to the West Virginians who are serving abroad, meeting with key local and national leaders as well as our military commanders on the ground.
While I was away on official business, I wanted you all to know that the important work of serving West Virginians continued right here at home.
Staying connected with all of you is why I was so proud to launch "Commonsense Connections Week," an unprecedented series of informal gatherings where my staff blanketed our great state, reaching out to folks and discussing your commonsense ideas, priorities and concerns.
When they started, they scheduled more than 80 events in locations all across the state, and by the end of this week they had surpassed that benchmark and are not stopping yet!
My staff spent the week visiting with our veterans, our seniors, our small business owners, parents and all of our hardworking West Virginians. The turnout was tremendous, and I want to thank each and every one of you for coming out to express your commonsense insights. My staff has shared many of your thoughts with me, and just as I knew you would, you shared your commonsense values, your interesting ideas, and your love of family and our great state of West Virginia.
We kicked off the week at the Marshall University Student Center and the Putnam County Library, where my staff was fortunate to visit with several people, including a World War II veteran from Scott Depot, who graciously shared his insights. There were great stops at the KisselStop Cafe in Elkins, the West End Cafe in West Union, and Betty's Korner Cafe in Union. At every stop they made, my staff made sure to leave a comprehensive list of ways you can reach me online, by phone and in person.
While I was visiting with active duty servicemembers, my staff also focused attention on our men and women who already have sacrificed so much for this country. They visited VA centers in Clarksburg, Parkersburg, Martinsburg, and Huntington, among other locations. Ensuring that the brave men and women who serve this country are able to reach me and my staff is particularly important to me.
My staff also reached out to seniors all across the state to hear their priorities and concerns, making visits to senior centers in Mercer, McDowell, Wood, Summers, Greenbrier, Braxton, Gilmer, Tyler, Mason, Brooke and Fayette counties, to name a few. They played bingo with seniors at the Calhoun County Commission on Aging, and spoke with the chief of police in Boone County. They toured courthouses in Lewis, Wirt, Pleasants, Braxton, Putnam and Marion counties, and had the opportunity to meet the folks who work at these locations serving West Virginians each day.
They spoke to local residents at public libraries in Pineville, Chapmanville, Paden City, Grantsville and Moundsville to collect their concerns on comment cards, which I look forward to reading when I return to our great state. Their stops were also a good opportunity for my staff to absorb and appreciate new and unique treasures in West Virginia, like the beautiful mansion in Weston built in the 1800s that now houses a public library.
My staff went to the Charleston Child Advocacy Center to meet their staff and learn about the services they offer, and the Valley Fork Community and Technical College, where they listened to concerns of students and administrators.
I am so proud that my staff had the pleasure of spending time with so many of you this week. Connecting with West Virginians is my favorite part of this job, and I look forward to making more "Commonsense Connections" with you myself.
If you missed any of our "Commonsense Connections" and want to get in touch with my office, please call our Charleston office at 304-342-5855 or visit my Senate web site: www.manchin.senate.gov, where I will post a list of upcoming events.
Above all, I want you to know that whether I'm meeting West Virginians abroad who are bravely serving this nation, or my staff and I are serving you at home, the people of West Virginia will always be my top priority.
Thank you, and God bless our men and women in uniform, West Virginia and the United States of America.