WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s easy to thank our brave men and women who are serving or have served our country and protect our freedom on July 4 or Memorial Day. But May is Military Appreciation Month, and North Carolina’s U.S. Senator Kay Hagan says it’s a great time to shake the hand of a person in the armed forces.

“North Carolina has the third-largest military footprint in the nation,” Senator Hagan says. “But, I know that many people don’t live near our fabulous bases, and they might not have family members or friends that are actually in the military. So, I think this is an opportunity in particular for people to reach our and say thank you.”

Many have lost their lives protecting this country, but those who return home are often seen as not receiving the best care possible.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 880,264 claims for compensation and pension entitlement are outstanding; 600,711 or 68.2 percent of those have been so for more than 125 days.

Senator Hagan says that has to be a major focus of the U.S. government.

“That’s on of the issues that I’m working on from talking to Secretary Shinseki (and) 66 senators, we sent a letter to the President urging him to take direct action to end this backlog,” Senator Hagan says.

And she says it’s not just the men and women who are fighting or have directly fought the battles at home and overseas who should be recognized this month, but also the families of those who serve.

“These men and women are giving the ultimate sacrifice and then their families are definitely a part of this war, they’re a part of the daily stresses that each one of our men and women undertake,” Senator Hagan says.

For more on the 14th Annual National Military Appreciation Month, click here.