Each year on Memorial Day, Americans come together to remember those who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of our country in the name of freedom and democracy. The debt owed to them is immeasurable. Their sacrifices and those of their families are freedom's foundation. Without the brave efforts of all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and their families, our country would not live so freely.
We come from a region where patriotism and a strong willingness to defend our country runs deep. Throughout history Texans have been known to courageously enlist in our military armed forces to engage any hostility towards our great nation. We have lost so many of our brave heroes in many wars and battles. The sacrifices made by our fallen, our wounded and our veterans, and our troops should always be honored and remembered.
On this Memorial Day, we remember the patriotic sacrifices of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. We continue to have troops deployed in Afghanistan, while our soldiers in Iraq have returned home. The President has kept his commitment to end the American war in Iraq in a responsible way. This honors the remarkable sacrifice and service of our men and women in uniform over the last nine years, and gives us the opportunity to make the United States stronger around the world -- and at home, building an American future worthy of our veterans' sacrifice.
On this Memorial Day, we renew our commitment to keep our promises to the nation's more than 2 million troops and reservists, their families, and 23 million veterans, including 40,000 here in the 15th Congressional District of Texas. Let us also honor the memory of the more than 4,500 Americans who have died in Iraq and more than 1,900 who have died in Afghanistan. We also honor the sacrifices of our wounded: nearly 32,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 15,800 in Afghanistan.
As part of keeping our promises to our veterans, the President and Democrats in Congress are focused on taking major steps to help our men and women in uniform obtain good jobs when they come home. With one-in-five young returning veterans (between the ages of 18 and 24) from Iraq and Afghanistan looking for work, we have an obligation to make sure our veterans have the necessary tools to navigate this difficult labor market and succeed in the civilian workforce.
That is why last fall, after Republican delay, we passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, to expand job opportunities for our veterans through tax credits for businesses that hire service members. The measure also includes additional provisions to boost hiring of veterans and provides them with the training they need to find a job in civilian life. With this new law, America can welcome our soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen back into their communities as entrepreneurs, small business owners, and workers.
But there is more to do. Recognizing this, President Obama called for a new Veterans Jobs Corps to help our returning veterans find pathways to civilian employment in the State of the Union address. In another example of their No-Jobs agenda, Republicans have rejected this proposal.
From 2007 through 2010, under Democratic Leadership, the Congress made historic gains for America's troops, veterans and military families. That is why the American Legion said, "111th Congress Achieves Banner Year on Veterans Legislation the real successes were the passage of bills that affected nearly every veteran in America." And we will continue to fight to preserve and build on this record. Over four years, the Democratically-led Congress:
Enacted the new Post 9-11 GI Bill to restore the promise of a full, four-year college education, that has already allowed over 600,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars to afford college, just like after World War II, along with tax incentives for hiring to expand job opportunities for returning soldiers.
Strengthened health care for more than 5 million veterans, with a historic commitment -- including the largest single increase in the history of the VA -- for more doctors and nurses, better access for rural veterans, and expanded efforts to treat the signature injuries of the war, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, while enacting a law to guarantee timely and predictable funding for veterans' health care and to address the health care needs of our nearly 2 million female veterans.
Provided troops and veterans the benefits they have earned and resources they need, giving troops a pay raise, restoring military readiness, providing the best training and equipment for the men and women serving in our Armed Forces, taking steps to reduce the backlog of veterans trying to access their earned benefits, providing special payments for service members and veterans who were forced to serve under stop-loss orders since 2001, and making headway in ending the Disabled Veterans Tax and the Military Families' Tax.
Strengthened support for military families, building more military child care centers and better military family housing, and enacting landmark legislation to provide much-needed support for family members and other caregivers for wounded veterans.
As we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, we honor and remember the more than 58, 000 Americans who fought and died for their country. We honor and remember all of our men and women who gave thier lives in all wars and battles to defend the United States of America. On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind. This day and every day, let us honor their service with actions that fulfill our commitment to our troops, their families, and our veterans -- and that are worthy of our grateful nation. Lest we forget.