By Congressman Zach Space
This week, we once again celebrate Memorial Day -- a day in which we spend time with our families and friends, marking the unofficial beginning of the summer months. But Memorial Day has a greater meaning and a much more important purpose -- giving thanks and remembering the thousands of brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom. This purpose is one for which we must be eternally grateful.
The men and women that we pay tribute to on this day have answered the call of duty, served our country during times of great national need, and through their efforts have protected the liberty that we enjoy every single day. And on this Memorial Day, we must also remember the families who still have loved ones serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. Without their dedication to our national ideals, we would be in constant danger of encroaching threats upon all that we hold sacred.
Just as these patriots have so bravely fought for us, we must be aware of the responsibility that we have to them. We must ensure that, once they return from battle, they are provided for. That is the cost of continually protected freedom. And that's why, when I came to Congress, I asked to be on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. How well we take care of our veterans gets straight to the core of who we are as a nation, and I believe that we must continually strive to do better.
Rural Ohio, in particular, presents significant challenges in ensuring that our servicemen and women are provided for. These are challenges that we must overcome. For far too long, national policies affecting our veterans have been designed with cities and urban areas in mind -- and this is a problem for our region. Just a few months ago, I hosted Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center, where he had the opportunity to see firsthand the struggles of veterans in rural areas. This visit was much-needed and long-overdue, and it is my hope that it will translate into action to help our veterans in rural Ohio to get the services that they have earned and deserve.
To combat this growing problem, I've spent my time in Congress taking action on behalf of our veterans. For far too long, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is tasked with providing these important services, has been severely underfunded. I am proud that we were able to address this issue by passing the largest single increase in veterans' funding in the 77-year history of the VA. This makes a crucial investment in critical services for our veterans, greatly increasing their access to care. And legislation that I authored -- the HOPE Act -- enables the VA to better reach out to our veterans -- like those in rural areas -- who have lost a job, business, or incurred significant medical expenses. Given the difficult economic times, we have a responsibility to ensure that our veterans know the resources available to them.
On this Memorial Day, like every day, I keep our service members in mind -- including those still serving and those who have fallen. Just as we should thank God daily for our freedom, we must also give thanks for those who protect it. And on this Memorial Day, we all should take a moment out of our busy days filled with family, food, and friends, to remember those who have fought to give us the liberty to do so. On this Memorial Day, it is my sincere hope that every one of us will recommit ourselves to bestowing the utmost honor and respect upon all who wear the uniform of the United States.