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Public Statements

Commending the President and the Armed Forces of the United States of America

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank my esteemed colleague and leader, Senator CARL LEVIN.

With the first shots fired last night, I rise today to talk about the need to support our troops now fighting in the gulf, as well as those on duty around the world.

From that freezing winter in Valley Forge to the baking heat and swirling dust storms of the gulf today, our men and women in uniform have shown over and over the hardships they are ready to endure in service to their country.

They are all in our thoughts and prayers. And we pray this ends quickly and with little loss of life.

I have met with many of these men and women and their commanders and have been impressed with their professionalism, training, and sense of duty and sacrifice.

From my home State of Michigan, the men and women of the 127th Air National Guard Wing in Selfridge, the 110th Fighter Wing in Battle Creek and the Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena have been mobilized and deployed to bases around the world, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, South West Asia, and Turkey.

Army National Guard and Reserve unites from Owosso, Taylor, Grand Ledge, Grayling, Sault Ste. Marie, Midland, Pontiac, Three Rivers, Augusta, Selfridge, and Ypsilanti have all been mobilized and are awaiting their deployment orders.

Many of these men and women leave families and well-paying jobs behind, creating hardships for themselves and their family just so they can serve their Nation.

As the sole remaining superpower, we are asking a tremendous amount of our Armed Forces today. When we look around the globe, the numbers are staggering.

Right now about 225,000 troops are deployed in the Mideast—with more on the way.

But, again, as the sole remaining superpower we still have responsibilities around the globe.

We still have 38,000 Active Duty troops in Korea, nearly 40,000 in Japan, more than 100,00 permanently stationed in Europe, and about 50,000 sailors and soldiers afloat on ships in foreign waters.

In fact, according to the Department of Defense, the U.S. military is operating in more places around the globe than at any time in its history, including World War II, with a military presence in about 140 nations.

These men and women in uniform need to know their Nation will do everything in its power to give them the support they need to do their jobs—and also that gratitude for their sacrifice they will have our support when they come home as well.

General George C. Marshall, who oversaw the movement of forces in Europe and the Pacific in World War II, knew that the morale of the troops is crucial if the Armed Forces are to be effective. He once said:

It is not enough to fight. It is the spirit which we bring to the fight that decides the issue. It is morale that wins victories.

I agree.

And I believe one of the things we must do in this Congress to ensure high morale among our 2.3 million men and women in uniform, including Active, Reserve and Guard units, is to show them we are treating the 25 million veterans who came before them, including about 875,000 from Michigan, with the respect a grateful nation owes them.

One thing I would like to see is a change of policy so that our 600,000 disabled men and women who wore their country's uniform could collect both full pensions and disability benefits.

I also want to make sure our veterans have access to the best possible health care by fully funding the Veterans Affairs health care system.

If you cared enough to wear the uniform, you should be guaranteed high-quality, uniform care.

We also need to eliminate bottlenecks at the Veterans Administration for veterans who need prescription drugs.

Finally, we need to pass legislation creating tax fairness for military personnel.

We need to send to the President S. 351 that would address long-overdue tax reforms for National Guard and Reserve personnel.

We also need to remember that in the world after 9-11, our first responders are now also a crucial part of our national security, and they need our full support as well.

They were then, and remain now, on the front lines of hometown defense in this new war against terrorism.

For the past several months I have been traveling throughout Michigan meeting with the public safety officials who have been given the mission of trying to prevent an attack—or be first on the scene to save lives if one occurs.

In nine meetings from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Detroit, I heard the same message over and over:

Help us get the training, personnel and equipment we need to protect the people we need to protect, and help us meet our obligations in the face of these new threats to our communities.

Mr. President, I hope we will do just that as soon as possible.

This Sunday I will participate in a special ceremony that puts this all in perspective for me. This Sunday I meet with an American hero of World War II to present him a long overdue and richly deserved Bronze Star.

His name is Sergeant Herbert Munford and his story is inspiring.

Sergeant Munford had already earned a Silver Star at the Battle of the Bulge. Of the 385 men in his company when the battle began, only 18 were standing at the end—the rest killed, captured, or wounded.

Months later, SGT Munford's platoon was scouting along the Rhine, looking for a place to cross in advance of General George S. Patton's 3rd Army.

A German machine gun nest opened up on the platoon. SGT Munford made a run for some tall grass, hoping to hide himself while he circled around behind the machine gun.

He was shot in the hip as he was making his run out in the open. But he still managed to make it into the tall grass, circle behind the machine gun nest and take it out.

And what does SGT Munford say today about his heroic act. Well, he jokes about it. He called being shot in the hip his "million dollar wound."

Why? Well, in his own words SGT Munford says:

I can't swim. I didn't know how I was going to get across the Rhine in the first place. I was sent back to be treated for my wound and when I got back about two days later, Patton had taken the Rhine and built a bridge so I could just walk across.

What modesty! And keep in mind, that German bullet is still lodged in his hip today.

And his story doesn't end there. SGT Munford went on to win an Oak Leaf Cluster for his Bronze Star for bravery under fire in Korea.

I tell this story, because I think SGT Munford's story, like the stories of so many of our veterans, shows the great patriotic tradition of our Nation—a tradition that is on display today in the gulf and around the world.

And when I meet with SGT Munford on Sunday—and he's standing there with his family and fellow veterans—I want to be able to look each and every one of them in the eye and tell them in this time of conflict this Nation is doing all it can to support our present military personnel serving in the gulf and other duty stations around the globe. And that we stand behind our veterans of past wars as well.

I want them to know that we are committed to the proposition that those who answered the call to duty will never need to call out for help due to indifference.

I want them to know that those who sacrifice for their country will return to a country ready to sacrifice for them as well.

And I want them to know that those who wear the uniform of this Nation with honor, will themselves be honored long after that uniform has been put away and the guns gone silent.

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