“WHAT VETERANS DAY MEANS TO ME.”

By on November 4, 2019 in Featured News, News
Special Edition of The Ripon Forum looks at Upcoming Holiday and the Importance of Honoring Those Who Served

WASHINGTON, DC – With Veterans Day once again approaching, The Ripon Forum reached out to leading policymakers who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces to get their thoughts on the meaning of the holiday, what their time in uniform has meant to them, and why it is important to honor the service of America’s veterans not only once a year, but each and every day.

The policymakers writing for this Special Veterans Day Edition of The Ripon Forum include:

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, who also serves as a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve — “It was my father’s two combat tours in Vietnam that left the indelible mark on my career,” Wilkie writes.  “The price of freedom is never free.  That is the lesson today’s Veterans continue to teach us.”

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (AR), who served as a Captain in the U.S. Army – “When I’m in the nation’s capital — as I was during my tour at Arlington National Cemetery with The Old Guard — I try to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Cotton writes.  “The Tomb is a special place on Veterans Day, but also a place where every day is Veterans Day.”

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (IA), who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard – “As someone who commanded men and women overseas and then served as a battalion commander of the largest battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard, I have a deep connection and appreciation for our veterans,” Ernst writes.  “Some of my favorite moments in Iowa are centered on honoring our veterans and their families with the medals and recognition they have earned.”

U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (OK), who served as a Specialist in the U.S. Army – “I can say without a doubt that my time in the service shaped my life for the better,” writes Inhofe, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “I am humbled daily by the sacrifice that countless men, women and families endure on behalf of a grateful nation.”

U.S. Senator Todd Young (IN), who served as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps — “As a Marine, I swore to always remain faithful to those serving by my side,” Young writes.  “That includes ensuring our veterans receive the care they are due after they return home.”

U.S. Representative Don Bacon (NE-2), who served as a Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force — “Everyday Americans will continue to serve and protect our nation in extraordinary ways, as they have for generations,” Bacon writes.  “We will always have their back after their service ends.  This is what Veterans Day means to me.”

U.S. Representative Jim Baird (IN-4), who served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army — “This day has special meaning for me as a decorated Vietnam Combat Veteran to remember all veterans, including Vietnam Veterans and especially the ones I served with in country,” Baird writes.  “Their willingness to protect this country shall never be forgotten, and I want our Veterans to know their service and patriotism is very much appreciated.”

U.S. Representative Jack Bergman (MI-1), who served as a Lieutenant General in the U.S. Marine Corps — “Outside of becoming a father and grandfather, having the unique opportunity to lead Marines in the fight has always been the proudest moment in my life,” Bergman writes.  “I’m confident that in an era of political discord and partisan games, leaders from both sides of the aisle will come together and put the needs of our Veterans first.”

U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (TX-2), who served as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy’s Seal Team 3 — “I challenge every American to say ‘never forget’ to a veteran this Veterans Day instead of ‘thank you for your service,’ Crenshaw writes.  “Saying ‘never forget’ shows veterans you’ve shared that experience with us.”

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), who served in the U.S. Air Force and is now a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard — “It’s hard to fully describe the relationships you build with your brothers and sisters in uniform,” Kinzinger writes.  “We need to be there for them on both the battlefield and back at home.”

U.S. Representative Brian Mast (FL-18), who served as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army — “By swearing the oath, donning the uniform, and offering to give the last beat of their heart, every service member is united in their choice to put service before self and commit their life to a larger cause,” Mast writes.  “The very least we can do is to return that commitment.”

U.S. Representative Greg Pence (IN-6), who served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps — “Semper Fidelis is not just a slogan or creed; it is a way of life that only those who have earned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor can fully understand,” Pence writes.  “As a Beirut Veteran, I understand that Our First Duty is to Remember.”

U.S. Representative Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), who served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps — “Our country has sent generations of heroes to defend our freedom,” Rechenthaler writes.  “It is essential that we take care of those who took care of us.”

U.S. Representative Phil Roe (TN-1), who served as a Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps — “It is only with age that I have come to realize and truly understand the significance of the sacrifices that veterans made,” Roe writes.  “A veteran left their blood in some foreign country so that I, and every American, could live freely.”

U.S. Representative Steve Stivers (OH-15), who also serves as a Brigadier General in the Ohio Army National Guard — “My experience in uniform has taught me that focusing on a mission makes it harder to be distracted by other things,” Stivers writes.  “I am confident that the veterans across the country lean on the lessons they learned in the service, making them assets in every company and community they are a part of.”

U.S. Representative Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), who also serves as a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve — “We each benefit from the sacrifices of those who put their lives on the line to defend the freedom, peace, and prosperity we enjoy as a country,” Wenstrup writes. “It’s almost mind boggling to consider how history could have been rewritten without their presence, standing in the gap.”

U.S. Representative Steve Womack (AR-3), who served as a Colonel in the Arkansas Army National Guard — “We understand that liberty and freedom are not guaranteed,” Womack writes.  “Our Constitution outlines these bedrock principles, but they are secured by the collective sacrifice of those who serve us in uniform.

According to the Military Times, there are 96 veterans serving in the 116th Congress.   That number includes:

  • 66 Republicans and 30 Democrats;
  • 19 in the Senate and 77 who serve in the House;
  • 48 who served in the military after 2000;
  • 21 who served in the military in the 1960s or earlier;
  • 19 who are first-time lawmakers;
  • 7 who are women;
  • 50 who served in the Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard;
  • 17 who served in the Marine Corps or Marine Corps Reserve;
  • 17 who served in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard;
  • 13 who served in the Navy or Naval Reserve; and,
  • 1 who served in the Coast Guard.

“With Veterans Day just around the corner,” stated Forum Editor Lou Zickar, “we decided to reach out to a number of these lawmakers and ask them a simple question – ‘What does Veterans Day mean to me?’  Among other things, we asked them to share stories about their time in uniform and how they mark this important holiday each year. We also asked them to discuss any specific legislative initiatives they are working on that will not only be of assistance to America’s veterans, but be a fitting tribute to their service to America, as well. We contacted the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs – who serves as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve and is the son and grandson of veterans – and asked him this same question as well. We are honored to feature in this special edition of the Forum his response to this question in the form of an essay, along with the essays of 16 veteran lawmakers, too.

“As someone who grew up in the 1970s – a time when military service was often frowned upon and those returning from Vietnam were too often looked upon with scorn – it is gratifying to know that we have turned a corner in the United States and are now at a point where those who wear the uniform of our country are honored, and those who return from deployment abroad are cheered. It is only fitting that we express our appreciation for their service and sacrifice. This edition of the Forum is meant to do just that — to be a small tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom, and a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the heroes we honor each and every Veterans Day.”

The Ripon Forum is published six times a year by The Ripon Society, a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

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