As Americans, we have the humble responsibility to care for our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. As our men and women from both the active service and the National Guard return home from fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world, they will join other generations of selfless veterans who fought before them. I will continue working to ensure they receive all the benefits to which they are entitled. I will also continue fighting to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains robust services for veterans in Hot Springs, in addition to other VA hospitals and Community Based Outpatient Clinics throughout the state.

The VA has a solemn responsibility to be a leader in serving our veterans, especially when it comes to specialty care that addresses the lasting wounds of battle. There is no reason that the men and women who served should be subjected to unacceptably long wait times or drive hundreds of miles just to see a primary doctor for the flu or receive a routine screening test. The VA’s primary focus should be to care for the men and women who have answered the call to serve, not grow its own bureaucracy.

Taking care of our veterans also includes providing solemn and dignified memorials to honor their service. That is why I led the effort to double the size of the Black Hills National Cemetery and support the establishment of an East River veterans cemetery to ensure that we can honor and remember South Dakota veterans for generations to come.

As your U.S. senator, I will continue working with my colleagues across the aisle to address the needs of our veterans and hold VA officials accountable to the men and women they serve.

The Veterans History Project is sponsored by the Library of Congress and serves as a collection of war-related oral histories. I interviewed my father, Harold Thune, about his experience as a World War II fighter pilot. To hear his story, as well as to find out more about the project, please click on the link to the left.