The rush of the holiday season is fast approaching. Folks in Iowa and across the country look forward to gathering together, counting their blessings and enjoying long-held traditions with family and friends.
But before we carve the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, let's remember to observe another national holiday in honor of America's veterans. The 11th day of the 11th month coincides with the anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress made Armistice Day a legal holiday in 1938. To encourage Americans to pay respects to all those who have served in America's armed forces, President Eisenhower signed into law a proclamation in 1954 changing the name of the Nov. 11th holiday to Veterans Day.
Now nearly 50 years later, America continues to owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who respond to the call of duty. Following in the footsteps of those who served in the 20th century, our men and women in uniform are living up to a heritage of service, loyalty, honor, sacrifice and patriotism passed down for generations.
Members of the armed services, National Guard and Reserves selflessly put their country first. They serve to protect the American people, defend national security, preserve freedom and safeguard our way of life.
This Veterans Day, let's remember the patriots who are putting their lives on hold while they put their lives on the line. Their sacrifices guarantee America's promise for generations to come. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces. Their irreplaceable loss of life reminds us that freedom isn't free.
It is important for younger generations to appreciate the service and sacrifice made by those serving their country. Awareness and appreciation for veterans has decreased in recent times as fewer individuals and families in America have a personal connection with the armed forces.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution calling upon President Bush to proclaim November 9 through November 15, 2003 as "National Veterans Awareness Week." America's school children, parents and teachers are encouraged to reflect upon and give thanks to the contributions and sacrifices made by America's veterans.
The conventional battlefields of the 20th century have changed. America was drawn into a different battle zone after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The success of the military and intelligence operations in the global War on Terrorism ultimately rests upon the shoulders of those called to serve.
Members of the armed forces, National Guard and Reserves have willfully accepted the responsibilities of citizenship for the common good. These noble men and women exemplify the moral virtues that give strength to our families, communities and country as a whole.
As the senior senator from Iowa, I salute their patriotism, courage and sacrifice. And I remind my fellow Iowans that a soldier's sacrifices on the front lines correspond with another set of sacrifices on the home front. When a soldier responds to the call of duty, families and communities are left behind to fill the void.
After more than a year of delays, I'm pleased Congress has cleared legislation that would give our military families a fair shake under the federal tax code. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I steered the "Military Tax Fairness Act" through the U.S. Senate and worked to bridge differences with the House throughout the year.
Our nation is relying on the military in unique ways. Making the tax code more fair to America's veterans is the least Congress can do. The "Military Tax Fairness Act" doubles the current death gratuity benefit from $6,000 to $12,000 and excludes the entire benefit from taxable income; gives military and foreign service personnel more leeway for capital gains tax relief on the sale of their principal residence when required to move in the course of active duty; expands combat zone to include contingency operations to give military personnel an extended period of time to file federal income tax returns; creates an above-the-line-deduction for overnight travel expenses incurred by National Guard and Reserve Members (includes travel costs for meals, transportation and lodging incurred more than 100 miles from the taxpayer's home); clarifies that up to $5,000 of employer-provided child care benefits are excluded from taxable income for military families; and permits penalty-free withdrawals from Coverdell education savings accounts and qualified tuition programs for U.S. Military Service Academies.
I encourage Iowans to make it a family tradition to observe Veterans Day. Pay tribute to those whose service to our country has helped preserve the bounty of blessings we enjoy as Americans.