By Representative Erik Paulsen
For more than two centuries, generations of Americans have taken up arms in defense of this country. From Lexington and Concord, to the hallowed grounds at Gettysburg, to the bluffs overlooking the beaches of Normandy, and to the deserts of Iraq, our nation has asked every generation to put on the uniform of our Armed Forces and defend freedom in its hour of peril. On battlefields across this country and around the globe, graves mark the final resting place of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
At the same time, the battlefield has also been the site of the best of what America has to offer. Take for instance Minnesota National Guard Staff Sgt. Chad Malmberg. In January 2007, his convoy was ambushed outside of Baghdad. Though outnumbered by the enemy, Sgt. Malmberg risked his life multiple times as he coordinated ground and air support, in the end ensuring that not a single troop in the convoy was injured. For his incredible acts of heroism and gallantry, Sgt. Malmberg was awarded the Silver Star. Minnesota is lucky to have brave and courageous citizen-soldiers like Sgt. Malmberg.
Sadly, our nation hasn't always treated veterans with the respect and admiration that they have earned. Following the Vietnam War, veterans of the unpopular conflict were all too often ostracized and vilified for serving their country. This was clearly not America's finest hour. Fortunately, those attitudes are now a thing of the past. Despite the American people being divided over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this country has remained committed to supporting its veterans. In the last 10 years we have seen the rise of new organizations like the Patriot Guard Riders and programs like Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, which are dedicated to assisting veterans and their families.
In my role as your Representative, I've had the privilege to meet some of the young men and women in our military, a great majority of whom are citizen-soldiers in the Minnesota National Guard. When I meet them, their bravery and selflessness renews my faith in this country. It is every generation's duty to leave the next with a country in better condition than it was left to us. Having witnessed the determination of our men and women in uniform, I have no doubt that America's best days do indeed lie ahead.
Despite all the gridlock and partisanship in Washington, there is one area where Republicans and Democrats can come together -- helping our veterans. Last month, the House passed two bills geared specifically to assist veterans of our Armed Forces. The Veterans Benefits Training Improvement Act would improve the way veterans benefits are processed through individualized training and annual testing to ensure that the government employees who handle these benefits stay up to date. Also passed by the House was the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act, which would provide up to 10 months of Veterans Retraining Assistance for unemployed veterans who have been discharged from active duty. Despite the divisions in Washington, or the significant challenges we face, you can be sure I will continue to work across the aisle to fight to help those who've put their lives on the line for our freedom.
So, as Veterans Day approaches, it's important to take the time and remember the sacrifices of those who have donned the uniform of the U.S. Armed Forces. If you know a veteran, make sure you take the time to say thank you; if you know someone currently deployed, write them a letter to let them know you are praying for them and their families. Though it is impossible for us to ever fully repay our veterans, thanking them for their service, and their sacrifice, is the least we can do.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen represents Minnesota's Third District in Congress.