Honor those who have served and sacrificed

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. As we observe the Wall's 25th anniversary this year, the memorial will again be surrounded by visitors who come to pay their respects to the men and women whose names are engraved onto its black granite face. The incredible healing power of the Vietnam Wall has helped to make it the most visited memorial in the nation's capital, receiving more than 4 million visitors.

During the Vietnam War and throughout our nation's history, brave men and women have always answered their country's call to service. And some -- like the 58,000 remembered on the Wall -- have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their fellow Americans and our freedom. For that, this nation is eternally grateful.

But we owe the men and woman of our Armed Services more than just our gratitude. As Abraham Lincoln said, we have an obligation "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan."

We must honor our veterans by keeping the promises we have made to them. My father and my uncle served in World War II, and they taught me important lessons about duty, honor and commitment. That's why I volunteered for the Army and why I've worked hard to make sure the Department of Veterans Affairs honors the commitments that were made to our veterans.

Earlier this year, the House passed the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act to improve the transition of wounded service members from the Armed Forces to the Veterans Affairs system and begin to reform the VA disability system to reduce backlogs and inefficiency in the disability evaluation system. I have also supported legislation to protect military retirees from proposed health care fee increases.

Honoring those who have served is something each and every one of us can do. The Library of Congress' Veterans History Project provides a method to preserve our veterans' stories for future generations. The project aims to collect interviews, photographs, diaries and letters from American veterans so their unique accounts will be available for their descendants and for those who simply want to know more about those who have served.

During my time in Congress, I have tried to honor those who have served. I hope you will join me in honoring the memories of those who have fallen and encouraging our veterans to preserve their stories through efforts like the Veterans History Project.