The celebration of Veterans Day after last week's election serves as a fitting reminder of where our priorities should be.
The service and sacrifice of our nation's veterans have protected the freedoms of our democracy and allowed us to live in the strongest, freest, greatest country in the world. Our servicemen and women don't sacrifice in the name of Republicans or Democrats; they put their lives at risk for the greater good and to ensure freedom and liberty for their children and grandchildren.
America's veterans have fought tyrants and terrorists to keep our country safe and secure. Yet even after they return home from war, veterans continue to fight battles.
The unemployment rate for post-Sept. 11 veterans remains at 10 percent -- above the national average. Suicide rates are alarmingly high among veterans and account for one-fifth of all suicides in America. Veterans in rural areas must travel long distances for health care they should be able to receive closer to home. And many must wait inordinately long periods of time for their benefits claims to be processed by the federal government.
Honoring those who served is about more than a single day -- it is about keeping our promises to them.
I serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, where I am committed to making certain our veterans have the services and resources they need to succeed.
I've supported bills that provide tax incentives to businesses that hire veterans and expand veteran education and job-training programs. I've championed an initiative to help veterans receive quality health care closer to home.
I also support the Mental Health Access to Care Act, which is designed to provide veterans with access to consistent, quality behavioral health care. Since 2001, more veterans have died by suicide than have been killed serving in Afghanistan. This year the Army is averaging one suicide per day. Veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury deserve help.
No less concerning is the amount of time it takes for veterans to begin receiving the benefits they were promised for their service -- from disability compensation and pension benefits to education benefits and health appointments. I encourage any Kansan looking for assistance with Department of Veterans Affairs issues to utilize my office's casework services by calling 785-232-2605.
It is a privilege to work on legislation that affects the lives of veterans, and it is an even greater honor to meet them in person. I am always struck by the stories of their service -- their courage, selflessness and belief in the values of our nation. Saying "thank you" never seems adequate.