Memorial Day serves as our nation's remembrance and thanks to soldiers who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of our country. The debt owed to them and to their families is immeasurable. I commend our service members throughout history for the contributions they have made to our country.
As families across Wisconsin come together to remember those who have served, it is my hope that with the progress that our troops have made this year, including the death of Osama Bin Laden, there is increased momentum for the 3,135 Wisconsin men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to return home soon. With our country involved in two conflicts overseas, we must support our troops and also keep our promises to them, their families, and veterans.
Right now, a great number of soldiers are returning home from one or more tours in the Middle East. To make it easier for these men and women to transition successfully from military life to the working world and obtain good jobs to support their families, I co-sponsored the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011. Our returning service members, especially our young people, are facing unique barriers to finding employment. In fact, more than one-in-four young veterans, age 20-24, are jobless. And as more servicemembers continue to separate from the military, the number of unemployed veterans will surely grow. The Hiring Heroes Act helps prevent veteran joblessness by authorizing new services and building upon current programs.
The bill streamlines the federal hiring process for veterans, expands the existing Transition Assistance Program, works with the Department of Labor to regularly follow up with veterans, and provides expanded vocational rehabilitation and employment services to wounded veterans. The bill also allows encourages business and government contractors to hire our brave men and women who have developed valuable skills while in the armed forces and eliminates barriers between military and civilian credentialing. Just as our military promises to leave no soldier behind on the battlefield, we must promise to leave no veteran behind here at home. The bill will smooth the transition for our returning troops, putting them on the path to success - and is supported by veterans' organizations including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
As more and more service members return home, I encourage these veterans and their families to record their stories. There is no better way to honor our veteran's service than by recording their memories. To commemorate and preserve this important part of history, I created the Veteran's History Project. The project uses volunteer interviews to record the stories of our veterans, which are kept in the permanent collection at the Library of Congress. Although the project has collected nearly 70,000 individual stories to date, the world's largest oral history collection, there are still millions of stories that can be told. I urge you to take the time on Memorial Day to not only thank our veterans and remember our country's fallen soldiers, but also to ask the veterans in your life to record their stories. They serve as the most significant memorial we can possibly give to our nation's fallen and living veterans.