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Wicker Report: Reflecting on America’s Fallen Heroes

Image courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery

The following piece was provided by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker

Each Memorial Day, Americans pause to reflect on the courageous men and women who have died in service to our country. Those we honor include the first patriots of 1776 who gave their lives for independence, the modern-day warriors who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all those in between who have died to keep us safe. These fallen heroes, spanning many generations, are forever bound together by their shared bonds of sacrifice.

Memorial Day is an important reminder that the freedoms we enjoy are not free. Our liberties have been purchased on the battlefield by fellow Americans who served a cause greater than themselves. Their example should inspire us all to live lives worthy of their sacrifice and to renew our commitment to serving others, each in our own way.

This year will mark 20 years since the September 11 attacks on our nation. That horrific day prompted a new generation of Americans to step forward and answer the call of duty in an age of global terrorism. These young warriors took the fight to Al-Qaeda and struck decisive blows against the enemy, yet these victories came at the price of precious American lives, including Mississippians. As a member of Congress, I have attended some of the funerals of these fallen heroes. The debt we owe them can never be repaid, but we must strive to keep faith with them and with their families who have shared so fully in the costs of service.

Keeping Promises to Those Who Sacrificed

As the son of a World War II veteran, the father of an Air Force officer, and as a veteran myself, I understand the needs of retired service members and their families. This year I have worked on several important bills to improve life for our veterans. My State Veterans Home Relief Act, which was enacted in March, provided $500 million to help advance veteran housing projects that had been delayed across the country. Of this money, $54 million will go toward a construction project for the State Veteran Home in Gulfport, providing quality housing for 100 veterans and creating roughly 200 nursing jobs.

I am also supporting legislation to help veterans who are disabled or affected by combat-related illness. I am currently a cosponsor of the Major Richard Star Act, which would allow disabled veterans to receive full retirement pay if their combat injuries forced them to retire early. I am also cosponsoring legislation that would improve access to VA care for those who served in proximity to burn pits and were potentially exposed to toxic fumes. Additionally, I am pushing for the K2 Veterans Care Act, which would make specialized VA care more accessible for those who served at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan, where U.S. troops were exposed to toxic chemicals and radiation. These measures enjoy bipartisan support and should be passed as soon as possible.

New Recruits Continue Tradition of Service

In recent years, the courageous example of the 9/11 generation has inspired new volunteers to put on the uniform and serve our country. I have met personally with young Junior ROTC cadets in Jackson who are heading for military service, and last year I welcomed Mississippi National Guardsmen who volunteered to protect our nation’s capital during a time of unrest. With each new generation doing its part, our nation is made safer and our freedoms are kept secure.

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