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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the tremendous sacrifices that veterans and military families make, and he noted that our country owes them, and the generations that came before them, its eternal gratitude. Thune also expressed his profound gratitude to the citizen-soldiers of the South Dakota National Guard, the airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and South Dakota veterans.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, on Sunday I had the privilege of attending a welcome home ceremony for the 235th Military Police Company of the South Dakota National Guard after their 10-month deployment to Guantanamo Bay.
“It was a fitting activity for Veterans Day weekend.
“These ceremonies are always joyful occasions, Mr. President.
“Seeing couples and families reunited and celebrating together after a long absence.
“Welcoming soldiers back to the familiarity of home.
“But in the midst of the joy and celebration, these ceremonies are also a powerful reminder of all that our service members and their families give up to serve our country.
“The joy of reunification points to the months of loneliness in which spouses and loved ones have had to live without their husband or wife, mom or dad, son or daughter.
“It highlights the long months in which moms and dads have had to shoulder all the burdens of child-rearing alone.
“The soccer games and football games, the doctor visits, the emergency car repair, the visit from the plumber – all the daily challenges and responsibilities that couples usually share fall solely on the shoulders of the spouse holding down the fort at home.
“And on top of the responsibility is the anxiety – the constant worry about the loved one halfway around the world, and maybe in danger.
“These moments of joyful reunion also point to all that our military men and women sacrifice while stationed far from their families and loved ones.
“The months of separation from spouses and children, with Zooms, phone calls, and emails a poor substitute for bedtime stories read together on the couch and holding hands on an after-dinner walk.
“The loneliness, the worry about a pregnant wife or an ailing parent or a child having a tough year in school – all while far from the comforts of home that the rest of us take for granted.
“And of course while reunions are joyful, the challenges don’t end after deployment.
“It takes time for the stress of a tough posting to dissipate.
“For soldiers to get re-acclimated to the civilian world or to their stateside base.
“For families to readjust to living together and not apart – only to have to do it all over again when the next deployment comes around.
“Some service members bear the invisible wounds of war for the long term.
“Not to mention those who are wounded in combat, sometimes requiring loved ones to become caretakers.
“And yet despite all the hardships and the challenges, men and women still rise up and answer the call.
“Service members and their families spend years and decades serving our country.
“They willingly shoulder the burdens and challenges of this life.
“Animated by love of country and of their fellow man, they choose a life that asks them to forget their own needs and focus only on what they can do for others.
“That asks them to forgo comfort for sacrifice – up to and including the sacrifice of their own lives.
“Their sacrifice, their willingness to serve, is what enables us to go about our lives in peace and freedom.
“We owe our men and women in uniform – and the families who support them – a debt we can never repay.
“But we can at the very least remember.
“As we go about our daily business, as we travel to our jobs in security and come home again at night the same way, we can remember that we live in peace and safety because of the sacrifice of the men and women of the United States military who stand on watch for us.
“I am profoundly grateful for the honor of representing some of the men and women of the United States military here in the Senate as well as our many South Dakota veterans.
“And I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that our military and our veterans have the resources they need and the resources they are owed.
“I have successfully fought for over a decade to prevent closures or service reductions at VA facilities in South Dakota to ensure veterans can continue receiving the health care they need close to home.
“And I will continue to work to make sure our state’s VA facilities remain open and available to our veterans, and that community care is equally accessible, if they so choose.
“I will also continue to work to ensure that our military members have everything they need to deter threats and protect America.
“And, as always, Ellsworth Air Force Base is at the top of my priority list.
“I am currently working to ensure that we continue to make the needed investments in the facilities and other infrastructure that Ellsworth will need to host the future B-21 mission, as well as to ensure the influx of military families that will move to the area have adequate school capacity and housing access.
“Mr. President, as we celebrate Veterans and Military Families Month, I want to express my gratitude to the citizen-soldiers of the South Dakota National Guard, the airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and our South Dakota veterans – and to their families.
“May God bless you all, and all of your brothers and sisters in arms.
“And may God continue to bless America.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”