Sen. John Thune
Sacrifice means different things to different people. For the brave men and women in our armed forces, sacrifice oftentimes means putting life – and the lives of their families – on hold for training, travel, and deployment. It means missing Christmas dinners, birthdays, weddings, and life’s other important milestones. True sacrifice is realized day in and day out by our troops and their families, and it’s important for the rest of America to not only recognize what our troops have done for the safety and security of our nation, but celebrate it.
There’s one veteran in particular that my family celebrates every day: my dad, Harold. Like thousands of young men his age, my dad answered the call of duty, and in 1942 enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He fought on the USS Intrepid in the Pacific theater during World War II and flew important escort missions that covered dive bombers and torpedo bombers responsible for attacking the enemy fleet. He served through the end of the war and returned home to his friends and family in Murdo, South Dakota. Although we use the term frequently, the “Greatest Generation” almost seems inadequate to describe what these heroes endured.
With each new generation of Americans comes a new generation of veterans. Today’s veterans – the thousands of young men and women returning home from the Middle East – need a different system of support than our parents and grandparents once required, and it’s our job to make sure that the system meets their needs.
The Senate recently passed important legislation to fund veterans’ health services and benefits, military housing and family support, and hospital and health facilities construction. The bill not only provides for the veterans themselves, but boosts quality of life for their families too. I introduced an amendment to this legislation that would further streamline care for tribal veterans receiving care at Veterans Administration facilities to ensure that access to care is as seamless as possible for all our nation’s veterans.
Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, important legislation that takes a step toward giving our heroes the mental health resources they need when they return home. We also made several changes to the Veterans Choice Program, changes that will give more veterans access to health care in their own communities.
While America will never be able to fully repay what our veterans are owed, we should start with a simple “thank you” and continue our work to ensure our heroes receive the care they have earned.