Roe in the Washington Examiner: Our Nation's Heroes Didn't Always Get the Honor They Deserve

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Washington D.C., May 1, 2019 | Whitley Alexander (202-225-6356) | comments

Sitting at the airport, waiting on my flight to be called; I hear over the intercom, “Now, we invite any active duty military personnel to board.” As a veteran listening to this announcement, nothing makes me prouder than to see our country honor our military men and women for their selfless service. However, it wasn’t too long ago when our servicemembers were treated poorly. We were even told not to wear our uniform on an airplane because of such treatment.

We don’t get to choose what war we fight in, and my family had participated in every war in our country’s history. I was drafted during the Vietnam War in 1973 and served at the DMZ in Korea. My draft number, 27, is forever imbedded into my memory. I knew one day I would be called because I had such a low number. Unfortunately, in the 60’s and 70’s our military personnel were shamefully treated and not held up to the honor that they deserved. My scoutmaster, First Sergeant Thomas E. Thayer, died while serving in Vietnam in 1965. I think of him when I remember how our servicemembers were treated, because he deserved the utmost honor. I learned so much about leadership and responsibility from him. I know he would be proud to see how our troops are treated today.

The opportunity to serve on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs was something that I hoped for from the moment I was first elected to Congress. Growing up in a military town, being a doctor, and being a veteran, it just seemed like the perfect fit for me and it was. One of the biggest honors I’ve ever had while serving in Congress is to have chaired this committee. As Chairman and now as Ranking Member, I have the highest honor of serving our nation’s veterans. Last Congress, and still today, we have both a tremendously supportive administration and congressional leadership. The result is an extremely successful and bipartisan committee.

Last Congress, the House passed over 80 veterans bills and President Trump signed over two dozen into law. The bills included major pieces of legislation, such as the VA MISSION Act, which is a comprehensive reform that combines community care and Choice programs to strengthen access to quality care; the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, that brought back accountability to the VA and their employees; the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which helps disabled veterans receive their benefits quicker and more efficiently; and the Forever GI Bill, one that is very near and dear to my heart because I used the GI Bill and now it is a lifetime educational benefit.

Our men and women in uniform made the decision to defend and serve our nation, all while making sacrifices along the way. I believe our nation has no higher duty than to take care of our active duty military, their families and our veterans. My top priority while serving on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is to ensure our servicemembers receive the services and support they have earned.

I am proud of all the work Congress has made on behalf of our nation’s heroes, but I am most proud of the progress our country has made. It began with the successful Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield that restored America’s faith in its military, and now at every baseball game and every plane ride, our troops and veterans are thanked for their service. We now have a whole month dedicated to our military and one to our veterans. I am proud to be a congressman representing the First District of Tennessee, I am proud to be a veteran and I am proud to be an American.



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