Column: Honor fallen heroes by supporting all vetsAs I travel throughout the 2nd District in Minnesota and visit with constituents, more and more Minnesotans share with me their frustrations over the increased partisan rancor in Congress.
By: John Kline, Lakeville, Minn., The Republican Eagle
As I travel throughout the 2nd District in Minnesota and visit with constituents, more and more Minnesotans share with me their frustrations over the increased partisan rancor in Congress.
Whether it’s Washington’s inability to recognize the need to enact legislation that helps create private-sector jobs, or the big-spending, overreaching, backroom-dealing culture that has engulfed Congress, I share my constituents’ frustrations.
Americans deserve better.
Fortunately, some of the most important business we do in Congress is still conducted through good old-fashioned respect and cooperation.
In recent weeks, I have been pleased to work closely with Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense bill that serves as the budgetary blueprint for the Pentagon.
As the father whose son is serving his second tour in Afghanistan, the husband of an Army nurse, and a 25-year veteran of the Marine Corps, I was pleased to craft and support legislation that supports our troops, veterans, and their families. Together, members of the Armed Services Committee are sending a unified message to our troops: We continue to support you in your mission.
Included in this year’s defense bill is an amendment I introduced that improves the Yellow Ribbon program, which is modeled on the Minnesota National Guard’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program.” My amendment encourages cooperation among members of the Armed Forces; increases awareness among communities and local organizations; promotes a greater emphasis on families; and encourages their participation in reintegration programs.
I have closely monitored the implementation of the Yellow Ribbon program in Minnesota, and I am pleased to have been able to make the national program even better - especially in the wake of the recent announcement that approximately 2,700 Minnesota National Guard troops will deploy to Iraq in 2011.
The defense bill also includes my amendment to deploy additional life-saving combat enablers to Afghanistan. This will provide our troops with the force protection; medical evaluation; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets necessary to accomplish their mission and return home safely.
During these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to ensure our troops receive the support and assistance they need when they return home to their families, communities, and jobs. While national unemployment hovers near a troubling 10 percent, the rate for unemployed veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is significantly higher - 21.1 percent according to the Department of Labor.
In light of these figures, I am pleased my amendment to help our wounded warriors compete for good jobs by expediting bureaucratic delays was included in the defense bill.
I still remain concerned that this bill could do more to defend America and protect her citizens. We could go much further in making a robust commitment to missile defense; strengthening our overall nuclear defense posture; preventing the transfer of terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay to American soil; and refusing to address the future of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
There is still time for Congress to address these shortcomings before a final bill gets sent to the President, and I will work to that end.
This Memorial Day, we once again honor those who gave their lives to defend our freedom. What better way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and preserve the legacies of these heroes whom we owe so much than by meeting the needs of our veterans of today and tomorrow.
John Kline, R-Minn., can be reached at (952) 808-1213 or http://kline.house.gov