Sen. John Thune
For South Dakota families that have a loved one who is either currently serving in the military, has already hung up his or her uniform, or whose beloved sevicemember is no longer with us, every day is Veterans Day. These family members are proud of their mom or dad, son or daughter, and every day is an opportunity to celebrate and honor them. Speaking from personal experience, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my dad and his service to the nation during World War II. And as the world has become increasingly complex and dangerous, I am reminded daily of the freedoms and security we enjoy because of the selfless service of our veterans across our state and nation.
For folks without a family connection to a veteran or the military in general, the level of respect is no less. Veterans are an integral part of our community – they’re our colleagues, our friends, and our neighbors. No matter the connection, though, every November 11, we all pause to draw special attention to the service and sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform who have served or continue to serve here and around the world.
While Veterans Day is a time for ceremonies and parades, it’s also an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the sacrifice America’s war heroes have made over the generations and the contributions they’ve made to the strength of our democracy. It’s because of them that we’re still able to call America a beacon of hope and opportunity around the world.
This year, for the first time ever, the president has designated the entire month of November as Veterans and Military Families Month. Following the president’s proclamation, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin said, “Our veterans and military families are an important part of our lives throughout the year, and by focusing for the first time nationally on a whole month of activities nationwide for Veterans and Military Families Month, we can more fully celebrate and recognize their contributions to the nation.” I’m glad to see the administration is focused on this important issue.
Particularly for me as a legislator, an important part of honoring America’s veterans is ensuring we’ve got their back when they leave the front lines of the battlefield and return home to potential challenges with furthering their education, finding a good-paying job, and staying healthy.
This year alone, Congress has sent several critical bills to the president for his signature, including the “Forever GI Bill,” which expands veterans’ eligibility for GI Bill benefits. We also passed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act and the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, both of which have been signed into law.
I’m especially happy to report that earlier this year, Secretary Shulkin quickly acted on my request to more prominently feature the Veterans Crisis Line on the VA’s website, www.VA.gov. The line is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and veterans can reach out any time by texting 838255 or calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing one. I appreciate his responsiveness on this important issue and will continue to engage with him on issues impacting South Dakota veterans.
Let’s never forget the reasons why America has so much to celebrate and be thankful for, and let’s never compromise in our collective effort to ensure America’s veterans have the tools, resources, support, and respect they need and deserve once their military service has ended.