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Honoring the service of our veterans
Honoring the service of our veterans

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 8, 2009) — As a youngster growing up during World War II, my heroes were the men and women who wore our nation’s uniform. I will always remember the time my best friend’s older brother, Walter, who was on leave from the Army, came to walk my buddy home from school. The sight of Walter in his Army uniform, carrying his gas mask in a satchel he had flung over his shoulder, left a lasting impression.

Today more than ever, my heroes are still the men and women who serve in America’s armed forces. As our country honors military veterans on Nov. 11, I want to recognize and to thank the men and women who have served and who currently serve in the U.S. military. However, a country that benefits from the dedication and sacrifices of our service members has a responsibility to do more to show appreciation than simply offer our respects on Veterans Day.

Veterans have been hit particularly hard by the recession. That is why Congress has been working to boost economic opportunities for veterans and service members. In May 2009, veterans could begin applying for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which Congress enacted in 2008. The new GI Bill fully restores four-year college scholarships for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. This year, Congress provided businesses with a tax credit for hiring unemployed veterans and sent economic stimulus payments to two million disabled veterans. I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 2672, the Help Veterans Own Franchises Act, which would help veterans become small business owners by incentivizing franchisors to offer veteran franchise owners discounted franchise fees. This legislation would represent a win-win for the American people by stimulating job growth while also welcoming veterans into the small business community.

In return for performing the difficult tasks our country assigns to our armed forces, injured soldiers need to know that they will receive the best available care and disabled veterans must be assured that they will continue to have access to health care to treat their service-related injuries. I am pleased that the 111th Congress approved the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which I sponsored, to prohibit fee increases on TRICARE inpatient care for one year and approved legislation to authorize Congress to provide the VA with funding one year in advance to ensure they receive sufficient and timely support.

Important for military families, Congress approved a 3.4 percent pay raise for troops this year. Also, they supported legislation to build new transition centers for wounded warriors, more military child care centers, and better barracks and military family housing.

I am proud of the bipartisan accomplishments we have made on behalf of veterans and service members since January, but I am mindful that more work remains. Our nation owes our veterans and service members our most profound sense of gratitude for their sacrifices and selfless contributions to our country. The dedication of our men and women in uniform makes our nation strong and keeps us free.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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