Renewing our commitment to our veterans

A Guest Column by U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge

As North Carolinians observe Memorial Day, our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect our way of life.

This Memorial Day we particularly honor the more than 3,400 Americans have lost their lives serving in Iraq and the 400 Americans who have died in Afghanistan. We also honor the wounded: more than 25,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and more than 1,200 in Afghanistan.

On Memorial Day, we should also honor all of America’s veterans. Recently, Americans have learned of shocking reports of poor care for our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe it is time for Congress and the nation to renew its commitment to our nation’s veterans.

Like all North Carolinians, I was outraged to learn of the unacceptable conditions plaguing Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Our troops are sacrificing so much while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they deserve nothing less than the best medical care we can provide. In March I voted to pass the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007, to remedy this situation and make sure that these conditions are not replicated at other medical facilities around the country. This bill will improve the access to quality medical care for service members who are outpatients at military heath care facilities, restore efficiency to the disability evaluation system, and streamline the transition of wounded service members from the Armed Forces to the Veterans Administration.

I have always believed that the federal budget is a representation of our nation’s priorities. That is why I was proud to vote for a budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2008 that puts veterans first. The budget includes the largest increase in veterans’ health care in our nation’s history. This increase will help to ensure that our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan receive the quality care they deserve. Through this resolution and other legislation the House has passed, veterans’ health care and services would receive a $12 billion increase in funding.

As a veteran myself, I consider it an honor to represent the brave men and women who have defended our nation through their service in the military. I am committed to taking this country in a new direction – working in a bipartisan way to ensure that we honor the service of our veterans not just in what we say, but in what we do.

On Memorial Day as we honor the fallen, I ask that God bless our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that God bless America.