VETERANS DAY 2005 -- (Senate - November 10, 2005)
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Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, as Veterans Day approaches, we pay homage to the soldiers who once stormed the beaches of Normandy, reclaimed the mountains of Korea and crossed the sands of Kuwait. We pay homage to our veterans' sacrifice and courage, and also to the brave men and women who now follow their example in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
In paying respect, we must also follow through on our Nation's commitment's to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they earned and deserve.
Arkansas has a long and distinguished record of service, one that my State is proud of, and one that we will continue to build upon. In addition to honorable service by our active duty soldiers, marines, seamen and airmen, the Arkansas National Guard has mobilized more than 8,000 of its guardsmen since Sept. 11, 2001. In fact, this Veterans Day is an especially poignant one for families in Rogers, AR where 180 guardsmen have just been deployed to serve in Iraq.
Arkansas is not alone in its commitment to military service. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are 393,000 new veterans to care for, including 103,000 who are currently seeking health care from VA hospitals.
We can never truly repay our veterans for their service to our Nation, but we can care for them just as they cared for us. In honor of these men and women, Senator Norm Coleman and I have introduced the Veterans Benefits Outreach Act to help ensure that all veterans collect the benefits they have earned but for whatever reason are not receiving.
Nearly 600,000 veterans nationwide are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to, often due to a simple lack of knowledge that they are eligible.
Instead of veterans having to cut through bureaucracy to learn about and receive the various benefits they earn, our bill seeks to bring this information to them. It requires the VA to prepare a plan to identify veterans who are not enrolled in programs they are eligible for and an action plan to enroll them.
This measure represents an opportunity to help our current veterans and meet the challenges we foresee instead of waiting until benefit problems escalate for a new generation of veterans. I hope this Veterans Day will add the necessary momentum for the full Senate to consider and pass this measure.
We owe this to veterans like Chaplain--Colonel--David McLemore--a soldier's soldier who has dedicated a career to providing outreach to service men and women in the field.
Chaplain McLemore is a native Arkansan and has served as a chaplain in the Arkansas Army National Guard for 21 years. During that time he has served soldiers at the company, battery, battalion, and brigade level. He has personally answered the call to duty in two wars, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
In both of these conflicts, Chaplain McLemore served on the front lines with combat units, where he ministered to soldiers conducting the day-to-day fight with the enemy. Chaplain McLemore always chose to be up front providing a ``Ministry of Presence'' to those in the greatest place of danger.
Those who served in combat with Chaplain McLemore knew that he would always be there with a listening ear, an open heart, and a guiding hand. His mere presence gave courage and inspiration to those who knew that they could lose their lives at any minute.
As any chaplain, Chaplain McLemore did not carry a weapon as he faced the perils of combat, but the soldiers he served with knew that he carried more firepower than any of them, the grace and word of God, and they always wanted Chaplain McLemore and that firepower with them.
They knew that he risked his life every day for one mission, to serve them. In the simple but strong bond of combat, it was clear that Chaplain McLemore loved his fellow soldiers and they loved him.
Two months after his return from Operation Iraqi Freedom II, Chaplain McLemore was involved in a motorcycle accident where he sustained severe injuries. Today, he fights to recover from those injuries in the Veterans Administration Hospital in North Little Rock, AR.
As he does, he has the prayers, respect, and encouragement from us and all of his fellow soldiers. We honor him today for his commitment and selfless service to God, his country, and his fellow soldiers. Thank you, Chaplain David McLemore. God Bless and Godspeed.
We owe all our veterans not only our gratitude, but also our freedoms and American way of life. Our military has kept us safe for a long time. We cannot thank them enough, but we can begin to repay their sacrifices by providing them with the resources they need in the field and the support they have earned when they return home.