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Collins Column: Honoring Our Veterans


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This week, we recognize Veterans' Day. Veterans' Day is an opportunity to express gratitude to real-life heroes like U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Sean Adams of Gainesville, who lost his legs, left thumb, and a finger in an IED explosion in Afghanistan.

I could list thousands of Georgia veterans, each with his or her unique story of service and courage. Each deserves our thanks every day of the year.

In the U.S. Air Force Reserve, I had the privilege of coming along side our nation's finest during their times of need at Balad Air Base in Iraq. As a chaplain, I ministered to those who bore the wounds of battle. Every day, I was inspired by the courage and determination of soldiers who, despite pain and suffering, could not wait to return to the field in the service of their country.

My time in Iraq also opened my eyes to the stress our men and women in uniform experience during and after deployment. Away from loved ones for an extended period of time, under constant threat of attack, I saw men and women facing some of the most difficult days of their life. These strenuous conditions make reintegration into civilian life deeply challenging for many members of our military.

Despite these obstacles and the scars often borne in their bodies, these courageous Americans continue serving even after they take off their uniform. From the remaining veterans of World War II to those coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, I admire our veterans not only for their work on the field of battle, but for all they accomplished since -- raising families, starting businesses, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to their nation through their work in the communities of which they are part.

The veterans I have been honored to meet and work with have inspired my desire to see our nation keep every promise it makes to our men and women in uniform. Veterans should never have reason to doubt their country's commitment to them. I'm glad that the high priority of veterans' care remains one of the few places of bipartisan agreement in Washington, and I will continue working with others to protect the promise of healthcare, education, and other vital veterans' benefits.

With more than 21 million veterans currently living in the United States, it's hard to imagine an American who doesn't know someone who has served in our military. Unfortunately, we don't take the opportunities we should to express the thanks our veterans are due -- but Veterans' Day is an opportunity to change that.

Please do not let this week in which we remember those who served pass without thanking at least one veteran. Whether the individual is your father, sister, child, grandparent, friend, or a complete stranger, I guarantee that your gratitude will touch their heart. Saying "thanks" is a simple, meaningful step toward repaying our veterans the great debt they are owed.

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