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Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McKEON. Mr. Chairman, I rise with great pride to stand with Chairman Young in order to reaffirm my commitment and the commitment of the members of the Armed Services Committee to the dignified and respectful transportation of the remains of our war casualties to their final resting places.

The current process of airlifting our fallen warriors was initiated by the Committee on Armed Services and legislated in 2006 following a series of unfortunate cases in which the transfers of remains simply did not meet the high standard that the people of our Nation demanded. As awareness grew, it was very quickly clear that the routine treatment of our warriors on their returns home was not meeting the expectations of families and communities across the Nation.

Without this law, the Department of Defense would be required to transport them by the cheapest means, in other words, to transport remains without an escort and in the cargo holds of commercial airliners along with the suitcases and FedEx packages. No one wants to see that. That is not how the American people wish to treat those who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

The soul of a nation can be measured by its commitment to honor those who have sacrificed all to defend that nation. If a nation takes a bookkeeper's approach to measuring that commitment, then, in this Nation's case, the cost of Arlington, of all the national cemeteries, of the cemeteries we maintain overseas, of the efforts made to account for our war dead and missing is too high. When it comes to upholding the traditions so intrinsically linked to the values treasured by the American people, our Nation will never be accused of possessing a bookkeeper's mentality. There is only one standard for the treatment of our fallen heroes, and the American people will demand that the standard will be met in the most dignified and respectful manner possible.

I commend the gentleman from Florida for taking a moment to reaffirm the commitment of the Congress and the American people on this important issue. I cannot understand anyone who would challenge him on his devotion to our servicepeople. He and his wife both have dedicated the ultimate measure to seeing that our servicepeople are given the respect and the things that they need. I don't know anyone who has visited the hospitals more or who has really cared about our people. I commend the chairman for this, for his devotion to those who wear the uniform.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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