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Recognizing the Service and Sacrifice of America's Veterans and Military Servicemembers

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. YODER. Today, I rise to recognize the service and sacrifice of our Nation's veterans and military servicemembers who have answered our country's call to serve.

Last month, we commemorated the 10th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, in remembrance of the victims and their families, while at the same time recognizing the need for continued vigilance as the United States seeks to rid the world of terrorism.

This month, we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war. Ten years later, our Nation is safer as a direct result of the voluntary service of men and women who are willing to place themselves in harm's way, often under circumstances many Americans cannot fathom.

This willingness to serve and dedication to duty remains consistent with previous generations of veterans who chose to serve their country during our greatest time of need. Unfortunately, we have lost some of our greatest treasure in our fight against terrorism. Since October 2001, 4,914 servicemembers have been killed and another 46,376 injured as a result of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, we again faced a tragic loss of life.

On August 6, a CH-46 Chinook twin-engine helicopter, carrying U.S. Army soldiers, U.S. Navy SEALS, and Afghan soldiers, was shot down in the Wardak province of Afghanistan, resulting in the greatest loss of life in any combat incident of the entire conflict thus far. The unit involved, B Company 7th/158th Aviation, is headquartered in New Century, Kansas, in the southernmost part of my district.

Last March I had the privilege to attend the deployment ceremony for the unit as they departed for training at Fort Bliss, ultimately deploying to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. As my colleagues are well aware, deployment ceremonies are often somber affairs with family members wanting to spend every last second with their loved ones before they depart for duty and soldiers assuring family members that they will be okay and not to worry.

This past August, I was saddened to learn about the tragic events of August 6, 2011, hearing the news that three members of the unit had been killed during the combat operation. These soldiers, Army Specialist Spencer Duncan, Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nichols and Army Specialist Alexander Bennett, are remembered as outstanding soldiers, dedicated to duty, their unit, and to each other.

Spencer Duncan was just 21, a 2008 graduate of Olathe South High School. He enlisted in the Army Reserve shortly after graduation; and before deployment to Afghanistan, he served at New Century AirCenter Aviation Support Facility in Olathe, Kansas. First he was an aircraft mechanic, and later he trained to become a Chinook door gunner. I had the honor of attending a memorial service for Specialist Duncan and witnessed the outpouring of friends and loving family.

Bryan Nichols was 31 and a pilot from Kansas City, Missouri, who, when hearing of the need to train people for mobilization, followed and sacrificed for our country, leaving behind a wife and son.

Alexander Bennett was 23 and was trained as a Chinook helicopter flight mechanic. Originally from Tacoma, Washington, he had already served one tour of duty in Iraq in 2009 before being deployed again, this time to Afghanistan.

Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to the families and friends of these three patriotic servicemen who gave the ultimate sacrifice that we all in this country might continue to live in a Nation of freedom and liberty. For their service and sacrifice to our Nation, a grieving country says thank you.

Mr. Speaker, next month we will celebrate Veterans Day and once again remember the service and sacrifice of all those who have faithfully and dutifully served, in peacetime and in war, throughout.

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