My father and grandfather both served as Infantry Lieutenants in the US Army – one a veteran of WWI, and the other a veteran of WWII. They both taught my brother, sister, and me early on that in order to preserve values we hold dear, like freedom, equality, and opportunity, sometimes men and women have to put on the uniform and put their lives on the line. On Veterans Day, we honor everyone who has worn the uniform on behalf of our great country.
Some of those veterans put themselves in harm’s way recently, in the Middle East. For many of them, on September 10, 2001, they were in high school or college or working a job. On September 12, they were in the Marines or the Army or the Navy or the Air Force or the National Guard. And from there, they went to other places, places that have become more than just spots on a map. Kandahar and Fallujah have taken their place alongside Bunker Hill and Gettysburg, Belleau Wood and Midway, Inchon and Khe Sanh.
Now, after years of war, those heroes continue to come home, joining the ranks of our veterans – almost a million in Ohio alone. They are not strangers to us. They are our friends and our children, our brothers and our sisters, our fathers and our mothers. They fought for us. Now it is our turn to fight for them.
That starts with ensuring that our servicemen and women receive the medical treatment they need and deserve, whether the wounds they suffer are physical and readily observed, or are the result of the deeper scars of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This summer, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on which I serve held a hearing on the effects of traumatic brain injuries on our servicemembers, and I pressed Department of Veterans Affairs officials to expedite pilot programs designed to address these invisible scars of war. We must also continue to demand that the VA clears a backlog of claims for benefits owed to our returning veterans, an issue that I have repeatedly highlighted. And we must take care that the health care benefits provided to members of our military continue to meet the needs of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, particularly the 6 million veterans in rural communities who don’t always have the same access to health care as those in our urban centers.
We should also work to ensure that veterans can find a job when they leave the service. We can accomplish that by expanding opportunity for all Americans, but we can also encourage the business community to take the extra step of committing to hiring and training veterans. I am pleased to have veterans serving in my office, and every day they remind me through their dedication and hard work how fortunate I am to have hired them.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” This Veterans Day, I honor and remember my dad, my granddad, and all those who paved the way or followed in their footsteps to protect this country, her people, and the freedoms we hold dear.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.