Skelton says Memorial Day honors those who paid for our freedom
By: U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton
Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 24, 2009) — On Memorial Day, millions of people across the nation will take time to remember and pay their respects to loved ones and fellow Americans who have lost their lives while serving our country. This year, as America fights wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more names have been added to our nation’s roll of honor. Each name represents the loss of a life full of promise, but behind every name can be found a family, a circle of friends, and a community that will never be the same.
After World War I, a poet taking inspiration from an ancient epitaph wrote the following verse: “When you go home; Tell them of us, and say; For their tomorrow; We gave our today.” The sentiment of this poem aptly reminds us of the debt we owe to our service members for their sacrifices, but also implores us to remember and share their stories so that this nation never forgets the prices paid by those who protect our freedoms.
All of us can take tremendous pride in the performance of our service men and women, past and present. However, military operations carry a heavy cost, and every time someone is hurt or gives his or her life in the service of our country, I am reminded that freedom is not free. That is why our country has an obligation to express our gratitude to the troops in meaningful ways.
As representatives of the American people, it is up to Congress to write legislation that expresses our support and thanks to our men and women in uniform. As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I was pleased that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included measures to address quality of life issues for troops as part of our plan to get the American economy back on track. The legislation will provide businesses with tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans, will authorize money for rebuilding and renovating VA and military hospitals, and will invest in quality family housing for military families. In March, I introduced and the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution urging the President to designate 2009 as the “Year of the Military Family.” By approving this resolution, we in the House recognize and uphold the contributions that military families make and encourage the nation to share its appreciation for the sacrifices military families give on behalf of our country. Also, on May 1, veterans could begin applying for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which was signed into law in 2008. This act provides for the single largest investment in college financial aid since the GI Bill of 1944 by restoring four-year college scholarships for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
I am pleased that Congress approved these important veterans’ measures in advance of Memorial Day. While we thank today’s service members, their families, and all who support them, let’s not neglect to acknowledge and remember all those who have selflessly paid the ultimate price defending America. When you see a veteran, thank him or her for sacrificing so much for all of us.
Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at http://www.house.gov/skelton.