By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
One of the most impressive things about the American people is the way they respect and honor the military members who work every day to protect and defend our country. We have many holidays and occasions to celebrate and honor our military members and each one is important because they allow us to publicly express our gratitude for our service members while they are deployed around the world. Veterans Day is special because it allows us to show our appreciation for them when they return, and it lets them know that we have not forgotten and will not forget their service even after they have come home.
Our military members sign up to defend us voluntarily. They are true American heroes. We often casually bestow the label of "hero" on athletes and entertainers, but this appellation is much more fitting for those who protect and defend our safety and freedom. Our regular, day-to-day life comes in waves, bringing new problems or pleasures and new anguish or opportunities. We are busy and have many responsibilities so it is not always possible for us to show our gratitude each day to those who have served. It is possible, however, to always remember our debt to them. Our problems of day-to-day life, though sometimes large, are small compared to the problems our men and women in uniform prevent from being visited upon us. A Department of Defense website, http://ourmilitary.mil, has links to many organizations that allow you to support our troops and help our veterans by donating or volunteering. Also, in honor of veterans, the Interior Department has waived entrance fees at our National Parks on Veterans Day this year.
As more troops come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, we are seeing more veterans coming home and finding ways to contribute beyond their military service. There are more veterans than ever coming home and signing up to go to college, and, impressively, Idaho's universities are stepping up to the challenge and finding ways to serve our veterans now that they have returned home from serving us. Idaho State University, Boise State University, the University of Idaho, North Idaho College and the College of Southern Idaho are all among the top 15% of schools listed as "military-friendly" by G.I. Jobs, an organization dedicated to helping veterans transition back into civilian life.
This summer, Idaho State University started the Veterans Sanctuary program to help veterans transition from military life into campus life. This program will provide a support team to offer resources and contacts around the university and will partner with local businesses to provide scholarships. The University of Idaho has started a program called Operation Education, which provides scholarships for disabled veterans and their spouses. This program is privately funded and helps provide for tuition, fees, books, on-campus housing, transportation, medical assistance, childcare, adaptive equipment, tutoring and mentorship. Operation Education has served as a model for other scholarship programs at other universities around the country, and last year, the American Legion honored the program with a national citation. I commend Idaho's universities for helping our veterans and I encourage them to do even more.
Veterans Day presents an excellent opportunity to show our appreciation for those who have done their duty and have joined us back at home. They have served us well and we should look for opportunities to serve them. Idaho does much to support and show gratitude to our veterans, but we can always find ways to do even more. For more on Veterans Day, and to find more ways to help serve our veterans, please go to my website at http://crapo.senate.gov.