Nov 08 2010 -
Recently, millions of Americans took to the polls or mailed in ballots exercising their right to vote. This important principle of our democracy is made possible because of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who put their lives on the line to defend our country. This Veterans’ Day, we should remember the sacrifices of these brave men and women and honor them for protecting the freedoms and values we cherish.
As a veteran, the son of a veteran, and the father of an Air Force officer, I know firsthand the importance of loyalty and commitment as well as the burden placed upon the families. Recently, I spoke with the families of several Mississippi patriots who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Gayle and I are always struck by the courage and pride the families show when talking about these heroes. This terrible loss of life was another reminder of how much we owe the men and women who answer the call of duty.
Although we can never fully repay our military and their families for the countless sacrifices they have made, America has a moral obligation take care of our veterans.
Keeping our Promise to Veterans
As the first Mississippian to serve on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I remain committed to strengthening care and improving the quality of life for service members. Congress needs to implement policies that will sustain comprehensive veterans’ benefits and remove unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.
I have met with Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki a number of times to discuss some of the problems I hear from Mississippi veterans. Today, too many veterans face difficulties trying to receive the benefits promised to them when they joined the military. The backlog of VA claims and time it takes to process these claims leaves many of our American heroes fighting layers of red tape. We need to accelerate the modernization of the claims and benefits process through electronic records. Erasing the backlog is a critical part of maintaining the standard of care veterans deserve.
Our service members returning home from war also need to have first-rate health care. The military medical system has made incredible strides in treating traumatic injuries that were fatal just 10 years ago. Recently, I met with a wounded warrior from Mississippi who was injured in an attack in Afghanistan. This soldier was hit by an improvised explosive device, severely damaging the right side of his body. With the exceptional medical care offered through our military medical system, this brave soldier is making a remarkable recovery. Congress should continue to provide the funding needed for medical research that allows our military facilities to meet the unique needs of those injured in combat. As we all know, today’s wounded warrior becomes tomorrow’s veteran.
Providing Education and Job Opportunities for America’s Heroes
When members of the Armed Forces return home, they need access to jobs. Congress recognized the need to improve the educational benefits for our veterans after 9-11. The new GI bill provides additional incentives for educational opportunities for veterans and their families. The law assists veterans with funding for housing, books and tuition for graduate, undergraduate, or vocational-technical training. Providing educational opportunities and vocational training will help veterans transition to civilian life and compete for jobs in the workforce.
Honoring Those Who Served
Mississippi has a long legacy of patriotism and commitment to the military. Our state is home to approximately 250,000 veterans, and more than 2,000 Mississippians are currently overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. These men and women have stepped forward to serve our country under the most difficult circumstances. Let us remember that we should honor these American heroes not only on Veterans’ Day, but each and every day. To all of the Mississippi veterans and service members, I thank you for your sacrifices and unwavering commitment to our country.