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Urging Americans and People of All Nationalities to Visit the American Cemeteries, Memorials and Markers

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


URGING AMERICANS AND PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONALITIES TO VISIT THE AMERICAN CEMETERIES, MEMORIALS AND MARKERS -- (House of Representatives - May 23, 2007)

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 392) urging Americans and people of all nationalities to visit the American Cemeteries, Memorials and Markers.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, we are about to take up a package of seven bills that have come to the floor from the Veterans Committee, a committee which I am very proud of that has worked together over the first 4 or 5 months of this session to keep our contract with our Nation's veterans. And there is no better time than just before Memorial Day to say thank you. Memorial Day celebrates those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation's freedom. We are here on the floor today to say thank you to those, and to those who are still deployed, and to veterans from past wars.

In the recent election, Mr. Speaker, the Democrats promised to do more for our Nation's veterans. We said we had a President who was saying, support the troops, support the troops, support the troops; but when they came home, where was that support? Walter Reed ripped off the veil of our incompetency of dealing with veterans and showed that so many were not getting the care they were promised and people thought they were getting.

We have had story after story in the Nation's press about how returning veterans with PTSD or brain injury have not been getting the care which this Nation has promised at the highest quality medical system in the world. So we have to do better.

We have a system that is really about to break and collapse. What we saw as the majority party is that the first thing that had to be done was give the VA the resources to carry out the job; secondly, we had to have accountability for the spending of those resources.

Well, in the first three spending bills that went through this House, we were able to add $13 billion for the health care of our veterans. That is an unprecedented increase from one year to the next, an increase of 30 percent in the health care budget.

We have put in the resources to clean up the backlog of claims for disability pensions that have built up to 600,000. We have put in the money to open up new Centers of Excellence for traumatic brain injury, to finally give the mental health care that the tens of thousands of veterans who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan need.

We call it PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, but virtually every soldier subject to at least five blasts that would give them brain injury, seeing their buddies shot and killed in front of them, maybe having to kill even by accident some innocent people in Iraq, they come back with tremendous mental issues. They have to be worked out. They need medical care, and too many have been falling through the cracks.

So we have said we will provide the resources to make sure that does not occur. We have provided the resources to meet these needs. Now we have to have accountability for their spending. The Veterans' Affairs Committee of this Congress has pledged to do that.

So we have a collection of bills on the floor this afternoon to say thank you to our Nation's veterans, thank you for your efforts in this war, thank you for your efforts in past wars, and we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day.

This resolution before us now, H. Res. 392, comes to us under the leadership of the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Lamborn), and I thank him for his activity on the Veterans' Affairs Committee. This resolution encourages people to visit the cemeteries, memorials, and markers overseen by the American Battle Monuments Commission. I am sure many people who hear this say, what is the American Battle Monuments Commission?

In 1923, Congress created the Battle Monuments Commission to control the construction of military cemeteries, monuments and markers erected to honor American servicemembers killed on foreign soil. Host countries provide the necessary lands for these sites to the United States in perpetuity and free of charge.

The Commission cares for 24 military cemeteries and 25 memorials, monuments and markers in 15 nations around the world. These sites serve as the final resting places for almost 125,000 Americans who fought in the Mexican-American War through World War I and II. The Commission takes special care that all cemeteries under its supervision are maintained to the highest standard attainable.

The Battle Monuments Commission extends an open invitation to all to visit these splendid shrines and go beyond the most well known, like Normandy, and venture into others. Each site has its own sense of history, sacrifice and beauty; each offers a different and unique experience. No two have the same garden or architecture. Perhaps only the spiritual qualities are similar.

In less than a month from now, on June 6, the Battle Monuments Commission will commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day landing by opening a new Normandy American Cemetery Visitor Center. Under construction since 2002, the center will tell the story of the American servicemembers memorialized at Normandy.

I encourage everyone to visit this new D-Day center and any of the other sites under the jurisdiction of the Commission.

Overseas American cemeteries are lasting reminders of America's willingness to come to the defense of others. These tangible symbols of American values endure long after the fighting is over.

Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Lamborn for bringing this resolution to us.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, parliamentary inquiry.

Does the yieldee have to make time for an extraneous comment from the yielder?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Does the gentleman from Indiana yield for a parliamentary inquiry?

Mr. BUYER. I absolutely yield for a parliamentary inquiry.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from California will state his parliamentary inquiry.

Mr. FILNER. Is the yieldee required to give time to the yielder for a matter that has nothing to do with the matter under discussion?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members may yield to one another during debate, but remarks must be confined to the question under debate.

Mr. FILNER. So are they through with their time? Have they yielded back the balance of their time?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Indiana has the floor.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H. Res. 392.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join Mr. Lamborn and me to unanimously support H. Res. 392. I have no further requests for time, and I yield back my time.

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