Butterfield: Looking ahead for our veterans

The following column was submitted to media outlets for Memorial Day by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson.

America sets the final Monday of May aside to pay tribute to the many fallen heroes and heroines who served and sacrificed in the name of freedom. These sacrifices and those of our military families form the foundation upon which our freedom is built. Indeed, without the brave efforts of all the fighting men and women and their families, our country would be unable to stand so boldly, shine so brightly and live so freely.

As we honor the fallen, we must also take this opportunity to renew our efforts to keep our promises to those still with us. There are 25 million veterans in America, and nearly three-fourths of them served during war or an official period of hostility. We have almost 780,000 veterans living in North Carolina, and about two-thirds of all men in the state over 65 are veterans.

Sadly, on this Memorial Day, we again are engaged in hostilities around the globe, and young men and women will make the ultimate sacrifice while wearing the uniform of this nation. Let us support and pay tribute to these courageous troops. Indeed, let us support and encourage them so that they too may develop into another great generation that will continue to keep America free, safe and strong. These troops have served our nation with honor and distinction, and this grateful nation must honor that service.

With this in mind, I recently succeeded in offering an amendment to hasten an end to the “disabled veterans tax” during committee debate on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006. By using the proceeds from selling off unneeded Cold War-era surplus defense stockpiles of chromium, this will speed the elimination of the tax for about 29,000 retired veterans who cannot work because of service-related injuries.

For those returning from the front lines today, we have to invest in veterans’ health care. Those who have answered the call to duty must be able to rely on the promises of the nation for which they fought. And yet, more than 50,000 veterans are waiting in line for at least six months for health care, and that travesty will only get worse with more than 85,000 returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan now seeking veterans’ health care.

I strongly support the New GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century, which is a comprehensive package of benefits for active soldiers, veterans and military retirees ensuring that America fulfills its moral obligation to those who have paid the high cost of our freedom. In World War II we honored the “Greatest Generation” through a GI Bill of Rights. And in the major military conflicts since — the Korean and Vietnam wars — we have honored the service of our soldiers through a new GI Bill.

On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind. On this day of remembrance, let us salute the fallen and comfort their families, and let us thank the many millions of veterans among us for their sacrifices by giving them our care. Let us respond with vigor to their needs, assist them with all the strength we can summon. For those who have gone on before, there can be no greater memorial. Our commitment this Memorial Day must be one of action and not just words for our military families, veterans and military retirees.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield represents the 1st District of North Carolina, which includes Vance County from Henderson northward. A member of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, he now serves on the House Armed Services Committee.payment aes loanloan amortization payment calculator401k loan transferloan $35000loan schedule amortization personallender 6th loan federal largest studentloan $10000 instantstudent loan center aesgrants loans amp adoptionprogram modification amro loan abn