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Memorial Day a Time for Reflection


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Memorial Day offers a special opportunity for us to spend time remembering loved ones no longer with us. We all have people in our lives who helped shape our character and memories, though they remain with us now only in our hearts and minds. It is important to remember them. Similarly, members of the military have helped to shape the character and history of our great country. Memorial Day is a fitting time to pause and give thanks to those who have served, fought, and died for our country.

We first began observing Memorial Day -- then known as Decoration Day -- to remember fallen Union soldiers after the Civil War. We now remember not only them but all those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country and preserve our freedom. Our cherished memories with loved ones were made possible by their service. Those currently serving continue this honorable tradition -- to all of them we are eternally grateful.

As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I take seriously our commitment to our military and our veterans. The least we can do is ensure that our veterans have the tools and opportunities needed to successfully transition back into civilian life. Many veterans have sacrificed so much, and they deserve support as they transition to their future careers.

With this in mind, I worked to include a study in the recently-passed Vow to Hire Heroes Act, which would require the Veterans Administration, Department of Defense, and Department of Labor to analyze the idea of fully certifying or licensing our service members in the civilian equivalent to their military job before they leave active duty. As many of us know, job training can be costly and time-consuming; there's no need to make it redundant for a veteran who already possesses the necessary skills. It really is a matter of common sense: if a veteran was qualified to drive trucks or provide medical care for wounded service members on the battlefield, he or she should be qualified to do so as a civilian.

This is just one of many issues being addressed by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. The opportunity to serve on this committee, to help give back to those who have sacrificed so much for our country, is truly a privilege. As we celebrate Memorial Day next week, I ask all of you to also thank those who may not have served in uniform but nonetheless shared in the sacrifice: military families. The demands of service can make family life difficult. Loved ones who support their family members in the military every day deserve our respect and recognition.

Our freedom to go out and memorialize our veterans, whether during patriotic ceremonies or quietly at a cemetery, in the sunshine is itself a testament to what they fought for and what Memorial Day represents. Let us never forget how much we owe to these very special Americans.

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