GUARDSMEN AND RESERVISTS FINANCIAL RELIEF ACT OF 2003 -- (House of Representatives - April 21, 2004)
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Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation, H.R. 1779, the Guardsmen and Reservists Financial Relief Act, which will allow members of the National Guard and military Reserve forces to make penalty free withdrawals from retirement accounts if they are called to active duty for an extended period of time.
Our National Guard and reserve forces are playing a leading role in our operations abroad. Nationwide, over 325,000 members of the Guard and reserve have been called up to active duty since September 11, 2001. Serving in Iraq and elsewhere, these service members have fought side-by-side with their Active Duty counterparts in often difficult and dangerous conditions.
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet with many National Guard and Reserve members and families from Wisconsin who have been called up in support of operations Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. Members of the 229th Engineer Company out of Prairie du Chien and Platteville, the 829th Engineer Detachment out of Richland Center, and the 652d Engineer Company out of Ellsworth all recently returned from yearlong deployments in Iraq. Their sacrifices, and those of their families, are greatly appreciated by Wisconsin residents.
With many Guard and Reserve members taking large pay cuts when called to active duty, it is proper that Congress act to relieve this additional burden. The legislation before us today helps by allowing activated Guard and Reserve members to withdraw money from retirement accounts without penalty.
While this legislation assists those Guard and Reserve members and families who need financial assistance to make ends meet, it is only a minor step. I, along with many other members of Congress, support additional tax relief for military families, pay increases for certain personnel, health care improvements, and reenlistment bonuses for members of the Reserve Component.
Our military commitments in Iraq and throughout the world are not likely to diminish in the near future, and the Defense Department expects Guard and Reserve units to make up about 40 percent of our total force in Iraq by May 1, 2004. With this in mind, we need to do all we can to support the men and women of the Guard and Reserve who are called to active duty and their families.
My thoughts and prayers are with those serving our country overseas, as well as their families. America is firmly behind our troops, and we are all hoping to see them home safe, secure and soon.
May God continue to bless the United States of America.