149 years ago, 24-year-old First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, a Wisconsin native, commanded 110 men and six cannons positioned in the center of Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, a spot now known as the Bloody Angle. They received the full force of the Confederate artillery and Pickett's Charge of 13,000 infantry on that fateful third day of the battle. Robert E. Lee wanted to divide the union forces with this charge and win the battle. Within a few hours, all of Lt. Cushing's officers were killed and he was shot numerous times. He continued to fight, instead of retreat, though he was wounded twice more before he was killed.
Because of Lt. Cushing's courage that day, the center held, the battle was won, and we remain "one nation, under God" today. Together with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), I offered legislation, which was recently passed by the House of Representatives, to award, posthumously, our nation's highest honor to Lt. Cushing: the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Ever year on Memorial Day, we honor our fallen heroes. It's a day to remember and show our respect to those service members who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of our country. Lt. Cushing is a reminder that it is never too late or too early, too much or too little, to honor our fallen heroes as well as the families, friends and communities they leave behind.
This past Memorial Day, I told the story of Lt. Cushing but I also read the names of the 29 service members from the Third Congressional District of western Wisconsin who lost their lives during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a nation, we have a special responsibility to remember these brave individuals not just on Memorial Day but throughout the year. We have an obligation to support their families who live with the loss of their loved one each and every day.
Finally, this time of year provides us another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to supporting our troops, veterans and their families throughout the year. Even during a time of tight budgets, we must make it a priority to fund VA health care, the CHAMPVA to ensure children of veterans receive medical care, the Hiring Heroes Act to make it easier for our service members to transition successfully from military life to good paying jobs, the Fairy Military Leave Act to compensate National Guards troops for miscalculated leave time, and the Post 9/11 GI Bill to provide education and job training opportunities for our veterans. This will not be easy, it will not be cheap, but it must be done.
As a nation, our goal should be to leave no veteran behind and offer them the support and thanks they have earned.