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Our Support Should Not End With Our Soldiers' Return

Op-Ed

By:
Date:
Location: Austin, TX


Our Support Should Not End With Our Soldiers' Return

This week, as we reflect on the anniversary of our country's declaration of independence, we remember the sacrifices that followed to establish and preserve 232 years of hard-fought freedom.

From the Minutemen who faced skirmish lines of redcoats in Massachusetts in 1775, to our brave men and women fighting to establish order in Iraq and Afghanistan today, our nation has been blessed with an incredible legacy of bravery, sacrifice and service. These patriots deserve our thanks and ongoing support.

Today, let us pause to remember the thousands of our fellow citizens who are deployed across the world answering our nation's call to defeat oppressors in Afghanistan and Iraq, and keep the peace in places like Bosnia and Korea.

The men and women who defend freedom deserve our highest honor and respect while they are serving as well as when they return to civilian life. For many, this transition can be one of the most difficult battles of all.

Last month, I had the privilege of visiting the beaches of Normandy on the 64th anniversary of the D-Day landings. I was humbled to the point of silence as I stared upon the vertical cliffs of Point du Hoc and gazed upon the rows of white markers in the Normandy American Cemetery where thousands of Americans gave their lives.

During that same week of commemoration, another six members of our armed forces gave their lives in pursuit of freedom for Iraq. My time at Normandy and reports of our country's ongoing efforts some 64 years later reminded me that America always has been and always will be in the business of freedom.

It makes me proud to see the level of support that our nation offers our troops when they are fighting in distant lands. However, we cannot forget to maintain that support when we welcome them home. As this war continues, more and more of our troops will be deployed, and more will eventually return in need of employment, counsel, medical care and support in their transition back into civilian life.

One of the best ways we can show our appreciation of their sacrifice is through the creation and support of programs that assist our returning veterans. I'd go so far as to say it's part of the social contract between the defended and the defender.

I recently participated in a benefit supporting Peace of Mind, the first initiative of its kind to support soldiers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, what some have called the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Programs like this will ensure the ongoing productivity of our country's most capable and accomplished citizens, in spite of injuries they may have suffered in the call to battle. Peace of Mind is a leading example of the role our communities can play in meeting the unique needs of veterans returning from the war on terror.

Each of us has the opportunity to take part in this noble call, by personally encouraging a returning soldier, financially contributing to veterans' counseling and rehabilitation programs, or helping a veteran in his or her search for a job.

I hope Texans will join me in encouraging employers across Texas and beyond to consider veterans when they are hiring. The Texas Veterans Commission does this everyday through its Veterans Employment Services program. Likewise, the Texas Workforce Commission is joining in the same effort, pledging $2.25 million to launch a program that will assist returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in the hunt for productive, rewarding work.

We can never truly repay these servicemembers for their sacrifices in the pursuit of liberty, but we must do everything we can to show our eternal gratitude for their protection of our independence.


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