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Public Statements

Helping Heroes Fly Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to be able to come to the floor today as we approach the week that we memorialize those fallen heroes and as well, at the same time, acknowledge those who yet live who have served and who are wounded. Even today, as we stand on the floor in the backdrop of enormous tragedies among our civilian population in Oklahoma over the last couple of days and in Texas and elsewhere, this is a very important legislative initiative.

As the former ranking member and chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and as a cosponsor, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1344, the Helping Heroes Fly Act of 2013.

I congratulate my new colleague for this outstanding legislation, Ms. Gabbard from Hawaii; and to the manager, thank you very much. It is important, and I am glad we are standing here together in a bipartisan manner.

I support this legislation because it eases and facilitates the expedited passenger screening at airports for servicemembers who are severely injured or disabled, along with their families. Of course, the thoughtfulness in introducing this legislation is appreciated because it is necessary legislation. I thank you for indicating that, even as the TSA, of which we have oversight, is formulating policies, it's good to codify it, to make it law, because these heroes deserve their law.

The Helping Heroes Fly Act requires the Transportation Security Administration to maintain an operations center to provide support and to facilitate the movement of these disabled servicemembers and veterans, and it requires the TSA to publish protocol so disabled servicemembers and veterans and their families will be able to contact the operations center and request expedited screening. The bill also requires that these protocols be integrated into the training of TSA agents.

Now, I know that there are many home ports, if you will, for our returning heroes. I happen to know that Texas has had a very large number of our men and women go to Iraq and Afghanistan and to places beyond. I've been to Hawaii and know the transition there of many who are on R&R, coming from places around the world, and I know that it is a place where many come home because it was their home, and, yes, they come home disabled, with prostheses and other wounds, that require their privacy. I am glad that this bill acknowledges, not only that they are heroes, but that they are desirous and deserving of the respect--why don't I say an admiration and commendation and respect again--of those who would expedite their going into a secured area.

Mr. Speaker, more than 2.2 million veterans--one in 10--have been disabled or seriously wounded in the service of our Nation; and disabled veterans typically find it much harder, by some estimates twice as hard, to readjust to civilian life. The least we can do for these heroes is to make it a little less burdensome and difficult to navigate the obstacles, barriers, and checkpoints that have been erected in the aftermath of 9/11 to enhance the security of air travel--and rightly so.

Most of these inconveniences are necessary but are no less burdensome to those who have suffered physical disabilities in defending the Nation from those who would make air travel dangerous and deadly. Let's give them respect for what they have done to secure the homeland and to make us safer. The legislation before us strikes an appropriate balance between these competing interests.

I have seen the operation of TSA and TSO officers and some of what they call these ``specialty officers.'' Allow me to thank you publicly for the work you have already done and for the sensitivity you've had.

I've seen these soldiers, these heroes, coming home at DCA and at Dulles. I've certainly seen them in the airports in Texas. I've seen them in their uniforms. I've seen them, as I said, disabled, and I've seen them with families. I saw one young man who was wandering in my airport. He was, obviously, in uniform, but had not a good day. I don't know what might have been impacting him, but we stopped, and I hailed an officer in uniform, a TSO officer, and said, You won't be alone now. We're going to find out where you need to go.

One of the factors of this particular legislative initiative that is good is that, wherever you land, sometimes it may not be your home airport--every airport is different--and I think they work themselves up to make sure that they make it exciting and confusing.

Thank you for the Helping Heroes Fly Act to help improve airport security screening processes for wounded and severely disabled servicemembers, but also thank you for giving them a helping hand. You are helping the veterans as well. This authorizes a Wounded Warrior Screening program and requires the TSA to maintain an operations center. These improvements will facilitate and expedite air travel for our disabled veterans and servicemembers. More importantly, they will help our Nation's heroes to be shown the respect, as I said earlier, and the appreciation of a Nation that is so grateful.

Mr. Speaker, I strongly support this legislation, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in voting for the Helping Heroes Fly Act of 2013. I am glad to be back in the well again in this week of honoring our soldiers and those who have fallen, and I am delighted for the leadership of my colleague on the Homeland Security Committee and of the manager on this great bill, and I hope that we have a very strong vote.

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Mr. Speaker, as a member and former chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, and a cosponsor, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1344, the ``Helping Heroes Fly Act of 2013.'' I support this legislation because it eases and facilitates expedited passenger screening at airports for service members who are severely injured or disabled, along with their families. I thank my colleague, Congresswoman GABBARD of Hawaii, for introducing this thoughtful and necessary legislation.

The Helping Heroes Fly Act requires Transportation Security Administration to maintain an operations center to provide support and facilitate the movement of these disabled service members and veterans, and it requires TSA to publish protocols so disabled service members and veterans, and their families, will be able to contact the operations center and request expedited screening. The bill also requires that these protocols be integrated into the training of TSA agents.

Mr. Speaker, more than 2.2 million Veterans, one in ten, have been disabled or seriously wounded in the service of our nation. And disabled veterans typically find it much harder, by some estimates twice as hard, to readjust to civilian life. The least we can do for these heroes is to make it a little less burdensome and difficult to navigate the obstacles, barriers, and checkpoints that have been erected in the aftermath of 9/11 to enhance the security of air travel. Most of these inconveniences are necessary but no less burdensome to those who suffered physical disabilities defending the nation from those who would make air travel dangerous and deadly. The legislation before us strikes an appropriate balance between these competing interests.

The Helping Heroes Fly Act improves airport security screening processes for wounded and severely disabled service members and veterans; authorizes a Wounded Warrior Screening Program and requires TSA to maintain an Operations Center. These improvements will facilitate and expedite air travel for our disabled veterans and service members. More importantly, they help that our nation's heroes are shown the respect and appreciation of a grateful nation.

Mr. Speaker, I strongly support H.R. 1344, and urge all my colleagues to join me in voting for the Helping Heroes Fly Act of 2013.

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