The Ripon Forum

Volume 53, No. 5

Veterans Day 2019

“It Takes a Special Person to Take Up Arms in Defense of Our Country.”

By on November 3, 2019

by TODD YOUNG

Captain Todd Young

In August, I traveled to a tiny diner in Auburn, Indiana, to present a medal that was nearly 75 years in the making. Over the last few months, I’ve thought a lot about that moment at Sandra D’s Café and what it meant to me. On this Veterans Day, I’d like to share those lessons.

Veterans Day is our national opportunity to thank the men and women who have fought to defend our great nation. Veterans and their families have made tremendous sacrifices, and they deserve our gratitude and respect.

I had the opportunity to serve 10 years in the military – including an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and a commission in the Marine Corps. I saw firsthand the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make, and learned just how much courage and sacrifice is required of our troops.

That’s why I continue to wear a memorial bracelet around my wrist as a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice countless Americans have made for you, me, and our cherished freedoms.

The bracelet I wear honors Lance Corporal Alec Terwiske. Alec was a fellow Marine from the small town of Dubois, Indiana. On September 3, 2012, the community was rocked when Alec was tragically killed in Afghanistan. His mom Sandy asked me to wear this bracelet to honor his memory, and I do so proudly every day.

As a Marine, I swore to always remain faithful to those serving by my side.

The bracelet helps me keep the right perspective on the things that matter most. This includes making sure we honor our commitment to the men and women who have served.

It takes a special person to take up arms in defense of our country. It requires a true belief that there is a cause greater than oneself, and a desire to put it all on the line for strangers they will never meet for the good of the nation.

That very belief makes me think back to that café in Auburn. Sandra D’s father, Robert Egli, was a World War II veteran who survived the war and lived a long and happy life back home in Indiana. Through a series of fortuitous events, I was able to help Sandra recover Robert’s missing Bronze Star.

During a battle in the Second World War, Robert’s unit saved the lives of 511 American prisoners of war in the Pacific Theater. His actions allowed them to return home, marry their sweethearts, start a family, and live the American dream. Now, those hundreds of Americans have children and grandchildren who are alive today as a result of his beautiful act of courage, patriotism, and sacrifice.

For these reasons and more, we must never stop working to ensure our veterans receive the respect that they deserve. As a Marine, I swore to always remain faithful to those serving by my side. That includes ensuring our veterans receive the care they are due after they return home.

The United States Senate and this Administration are doing more for veterans than any period in recent memory.

Last year, the VA MISSION Act, which I was proud to cosponsor, became law and dramatically improved the way our veterans receive care. Many Hoosier veterans want to be able to use their own local doctors instead of traveling to a VA clinic, and now they can.

We have made significant strides for our veterans in recent years, but we must always keep striving
to do more.

We also sped up the appeals process through the VA Appeals Modernization Act to ensure veterans get a quick response to claims and appeals. Under the old legacy system, appeals took an average of three to seven years. Now with the help of new computer systems, more employees, and a streamlined process, appeals are supposed to be ruled on within a year.

I have also taken steps to improve the ways our veterans are cared for in nursing homes, and to provide urgently needed support for veterans who may be contemplating suicide.

The Senate recently passed unanimously the VETS Safe Travel Act, a bill I introduced to provide severely disabled veterans with free TSA PreCheck in airports. The bill has the potential to help 70,000 amputee, 100,000 paralyzed, and 130,000 blind veterans currently subjected to a rigorous and demeaning screening process when traveling.

We have made significant strides for our veterans in recent years, but we must always keep striving to do more.

George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

This Veterans Day, and every day, I encourage you to remember our veterans.

Todd Young is the senior U.S. Senator for Indiana. He served previously in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

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