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Public Statements

Recognizing the Contributions of Native American Veterans

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



* Mrs. WILSON of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, as the sponsor of H. Res. 744, I rise in strong support of this resolution and urge its passage. I want to thank Representative STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN who is an original cosponsor of this resolution and who is a strong advocate for our veterans. I also want to thank Chairman Bob Filner, who cosponsored the resolution and Ranking Member Steve Buyer for his commitment to all veterans.

* Earlier this year I met with some Native American veterans in my State. They expressed many concerns to me and were worried that all Native American Veterans had not been recognized for their service to their country.

* On October 15, 2007, Congresswoman HERSETH SANDLIN and I introduced H. Res. 744, a resolution that recognizes the contributions of Native American veterans and calls upon the President of the United States to issue a proclamation urging the United States to observe a day in honor of Native American veterans.

* Native Americans were participants in the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. During World War I, 12,000 Native Americans served in the United States military and in World War II, more than 44,000 Native Americans served their country in both the European and Pacific fronts of the war. Native Americans also fought in the Korean conflict and the Vietnam war. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Native Americans have made significant contributions.

* Native American veterans should be recognized for their service in uniform. This resolution gives all Native American veterans the formal recognition they deserve for their sacrifices and contributions.

* I have also introduced H.R. 4012, the Native American Language Assistance Act of 2007, a bill to assist VA hospitals and clinics that treat a large number of Native American patients. I urge my colleagues to cosponsor this legislation that will ensure that Native American veterans have access, delivery and follow-up of services at the VA.

* The bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a program to make competitive grants to any VA medical facility that treats a high number of Native American veterans. The grants, up to $100,000 each, would provide interpreters or other language resources to improve access to, delivery of, and follow-up for medical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

* I am concerned that Indian veterans are. not receiving adequate assistance and support for their care at our VA hospitals. This bill will provide help to those hospitals that treat high numbers of Indians. By providing our VA hospitals with funding for language programs and outreach, we can better communicate to these veterans about what services and benefits are available to them and make sure they are getting the care and support they need.

* Nationally, there are 195,871 Native American veterans. There are 11,929 Native American Veterans in New Mexico--3.1 percent of the entire American Indian veteran population.

* I am grateful to all who serve their Nation and we as a Congress have a responsibility to ensure they receive the best possible care. In this war on terrorism, the greatest burdens have fallen on the shoulders of a relatively small number of Americans who have volunteered to take great risks on our behalf. Events over the last few years have made a new generation of Americans realize just how precious our freedoms really are. We owe our freedom fighters--past, present, and future--a debt of gratitude for their selflessness and sacrifice. I will continue to fight to ensure that our veterans get the benefits they were promised, the health care they deserve, and the recognition that our Nation owes them.

* I support passage of this resolution.

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