Good morning Chairman Runyon, Ranking Member McNerney, and distinguished Members of this Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on H.R. 4168, the Caring for the Fallen Act of 2012.
Let me begin with a question: Say a cemetery in your hometown was overgrown with weeds, abused by vandals and littered with dumped trash. And say that same cemetery contained the graves of hundreds of U.S. Armed Service members stretching back for a century. What would the people of your hometown say about it?
Phones in my hometown of Manchester, New Hampshire would be ringing off the hook. Hundreds of outraged veterans and their families would demand immediate action. That would likely be the reaction in your town, too.
But sadly, there are no outraged calls coming on behalf of Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines. Left on its own for several years when the U.S. military was withdrawn from the area around it in 1991, it quickly fell into an appalling state of decline. "Out of sight, out of mind," the saying goes. And that's just what happened. It soon acquired the shameful nickname "the Cemetery America Forgot."
The 2,200 U.S. veterans interred within Clark Veterans Cemetery deserve better. They answered when America called them; now we have it within our ability to answer when their resting place calls out for our attention.
H.R. 4168, the Caring for the Fallen Act of 2012, is simple and to the point. It designates the American Battlefields Monuments Commission (ABMC) with the responsibility of caring for the cemetery, and authorizes it to make necessary arrangements to ensure its on-going maintenance. This legislation is budget neutral, with the ABMC paying for that maintenance through existing appropriations.
I'm grateful Representative Bill Owens, an Air Force veteran, is lead Democratic co-sponsor of the Caring for the Fallen Act. It's a reminder that Members can remove partisan labels and work side-by-side to honor those who wore our country's uniform. I'm also honored that this bill has the support of the Military Officers Association of America and the Air Force Sergeant's Association.
When visitors enter Clark Veterans Cemetery, they pass through a gate inscribed with the words "Served with Honor." Now it's time Americans honor that service by restoring the dignity these brave men and women so richly deserve.
I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about this bill. Thank you for your time.