HUDSON: They fought for us; let’s fight for them

Just before Veterans Day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan said, “Veterans know better than anyone else the price of freedom, for they’ve suffered the scars of war. We can offer them no better tribute than to protect what they have won for us.”

On Veterans Day, we honor the best our nation has to offer. We honor those who served to keep America safe in times of peril. And we honor their families who have shared in their sacrifices. Without our nation’s veterans, we would not have the America we enjoy today. I can never thank them enough for their service to our great country.

On Thursday, I joined with veterans from World War II through the War on Terror in Kannapolis. We began the day at veteran-owned Local Patriot Roasting Company, followed by a program at Old Armor Beer Company, which is also veteran-owned. Supporting businesses like these, or hiring a veteran if you’re able, are among some of the best ways to honor our heroes.

While speaking Thursday, I acknowledged this year has not been easy for our veterans. Much of that stems from witnessing the botched withdrawal of Afghanistan that tragically led to the death of 13 servicemembers. Two of them were connected to our state and community — Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole Gee from Sacramento, California, was stationed at Camp Lejeune, and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss from Pinebluff was stationed at Fort Bragg.

The botched withdrawal from Afghanistan has impacted all of us. Images of the Taliban with American military equipment and the fact that thousands of Americans and our allies have been left behind are infuriating. While the Biden administration must be held accountable for their decisions, let me say directly to veterans who served in Afghanistan — your sacrifice mattered! You did your job, you kept us safe from terrorists for 20 years, and our country is proud of you.

All of us must do all we can to support every man and woman who has worn our nation’s uniform, as well as their families. Throughout my time in Congress, this has been a top priority.

Working with my colleagues, we passed the largest budget in history for the VA. We passed the MISSION Act to improve health care for our veterans, whether they choose the VA or their own doctor. Last Congress, I secured provisions to expand access to VA health benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

To build on this progress, this year I have introduced the Care Veterans Deserve Act to expand veterans’ ability to choose to go to the VA or a private doctor. The Care for the Veteran Caregiver Act increases support for caregivers and streamlines the caregiver process. The VA Electronic Health Record Advisory Committee Act will help implement an electronic record system that is vital. And the Veterans in Parks Act grants free admission to our national parks for veterans and Gold Star families.

Working together with Republicans and Democrats, we have accomplished a lot to support our veterans. Yet there is more to do.

Active-duty suicides are up 46% from last year. Veteran suicides are not far behind. If you or someone you know is a veteran who needs support, call the veterans crisis line: 1-800-273-8255.

No veteran should ever feel alone or unsupported. That’s why in addition to the crisis line, this year I am encouraging another opportunity to reach out to veterans and active-duty troops.

I have cosponsored legislation designating Nov. 21 as National Warrior Call Day — a day to call a veteran you know and tell them how much you value their service. This small gesture may save a life, and it’s the least we can do to say thank you to those who have served.

I will never waiver on my commitment to support our veterans, and as President Reagan said, “protect what they have won for us.”

Veterans Day shouldn’t be just one day a year. Today and every day, join me in thanking veterans for their service and remembering the liberties and freedoms they have defended for all of us.

It’s an honor to be Fort Bragg’s congressman. It’s an honor to be your congressman. And it’s an honor to represent so many of you who have worn our nation’s uniform.

By Rep. Richard Hudson

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