Recent Op-Eds

November is the month when Americans look back and remember all of the blessings of the year. It is also the month when we set aside a day to celebrate those who have given so much in defense of our country: our military veterans. Upon reflection, we quickly realize that without the liberty that these men and women have defended through the years, our nation would not be what it is today, nor would citizens enjoy the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted.

South Dakota has a proud legacy of military service that extends from our state's earliest days to our current conflicts around the globe. South Dakotans of every background have always answered the call to defend America from those who seek to destroy the freedom that we cherish. I doubt there are many South Dakotans who do not have a family member or friend who has worn our nation's uniform. Sadly, there are many South Dakotans who have lost loved ones in the defense of America, and their losses are still felt to this day.

In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln called on the American people to recognize and be thankful for the sacrifices made by soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. He called on his contemporaries, and us, by extension to, "care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and for his orphan." While much has changed in American since President Lincoln's remarks, his underlying message about the importance of caring for our nation's soldiers and their families is equally as powerful today.

Earlier this year I interviewed my father, Harold Thune, a World War II Navy pilot, for the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project. The interview gave me renewed perspective and appreciation for his service and those men and women of his generation, as well as for those men and women who leave their homes and families to defend us today. I encourage South Dakotans to consider participating in the Veterans History Project, as it is a uniquely rewarding experience.

Also this year, the Senate passed my legislation which would make automatic the annual inflation adjustment to veterans' benefits, instead of requiring an act of Congress each year. All too often this important increase is held hostage for partisan reasons, and I believe that our veterans have given too much to be used for this kind of political gamesmanship. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives failed to act on this bill, but I am committed to making it a reality in the future.

Veterans Day is a day in which we solemnly remember the individuals who laid down their lives for their country and those who served honorably. It is a day that helps us to understand that our freedoms and our prosperity are not an accident of nature, but the result of countless deliberate acts of courage by human beings who risked their lives and their livelihoods for the common good. Ultimately, Veterans Day serves as a reminder to us all to do our part to preserve and expand our freedoms and our values for future generations.

Being truly thankful is not just about recognizing our material success. This time of year we pay special attention to all of the blessings of our life, not least of which is our freedom. We all know that there have been millions who have gone before us, and hundreds of thousands serving us today, who have shed blood and sacrificed in defense of that liberty. We should not let this Veterans Day pass without giving special thanks for the willingness of so many who sacrificed and put their country ahead of themselves.