Q. What is Memorial Day and why do we celebrate it?
A. Memorial Day, previously known as Decoration Day, was originally dedicated to honoring Union soldiers who died during the Civil War. It has since been expanded to honor all men and women who died while in military service. Impromptu Decoration Day celebrations began in 1865, and it became an organized holiday in 1868. The name Memorial Day was first used in 1882, and it has been the official name since Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971.
Today, we place American flags near the gravesites of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to mark our appreciation for their service. It is important to honor individuals who have served their country, both those who are with us and those that we've lost. We owe our safety and our entire way of life to these brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our country, and we owe a special debt of gratitude to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Q. What do you do to help Veterans and those currently serving in the military?
A. I have tremendous respect for our military. I have had the opportunity to observe somber moments, like the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and joyous moments, like the distribution of service medals. Throughout my time in the United States Senate, I have strived to uphold our country's obligation to all those who have served and sacrificed for our freedom. Recently, I have been working to address the ongoing and growing backlog of Veterans' claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I have cosponsored successful legislation that will ensure timely, sufficient and reliable funding for the VA health care system. This legislation was supported by all major Veterans' organizations as well as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. I have worked to include several beneficial provisions in the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. This new law corrects a number of deficiencies in how the U.S. cares for Veterans with traumatic brain injuries, enhances VA support for family caregivers, and expands mental health services. In 2009, I was honored to receive the American Legion's Distinguished Public Service Award for my work on issues important to Veterans.