Honoring America’s Veterans on Memorial Day – and Always
By U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson
As Americans, we are truly blessed to enjoy freedom in its many forms – the freedom of speech, the freedom to bear arms, and the freedom of religion, just to name a few. But as you may often hear, Freedom is not free. After all, the Land of the Free is only as strong as its protectors and defenders – our troops and veterans who have put their lives on the line. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day is particularly important to me because it is a time when Americans across the country come together to remember the sacrifices of our servicemen and women – brave individuals like my fellow comrades I was honored to serve with during my 29 years as an Air Force veteran and Prisoner of War (POW) for nearly seven years. So on Memorial Day, we first and foremost remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in defense of our Great Nation’s freedoms. We honor their memories and we support their families for their sacrifices. We also thank our veterans who are with us today. They are all heroes.
During my time in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, a Vietnam POW prison, my POW buddies and I decided that if and when we ever got out we would stop just gripping about the government and start making things better. And as your Representative in the United States Congress, one of the priorities that is close to my heart is ensuring our troops and veterans get the support they need – both during their time in the military and when they finish their service. After all, our troops and veterans deserve our gratitude and utmost respect for the sacrifices that they and their families have made – and from which we all benefit.
While we remember our troops, our veterans, and those who are no longer with us this Memorial Day, I am working year-round to ensure our servicemen and women know their country stands by them.
To honor America’s Fighter Aces, I was proud to present this elite group of individuals with a Congressional Gold Medal on May 20th, 2015. Fighter Aces are rare. While over 60,000 U.S. military fighter pilots have taken to air, less than 1,500 have been honored with the coveted status of “Fighter Ace.” And only a few hundred remain with us today. My resolution to recognize them with Congress’ highest honor was signed into law last year, and it was great to see this come full circle during the May 20th Congressional ceremony honoring these American patriots for their service and skill. Their efforts have shortened wars and saved lives.
Because the Korean War is often forgotten and America’s memorial for this Forgotten War is incomplete, I also recently introduced the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance Act. This bill would permit a Wall of Remembrance to be added to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Wall would list the names of all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were killed in action during the Korean War. It would also list the number of all American POWs and MIAs from the Korean War. I think you’ll also be pleased to know that this Wall of Remembrance is privately funded and the money has already been raised. No taxpayer dollars would be spent on this addition!
I’m also actively working to ensure our veterans who have fought to protect our Great Nation and were injured have access to the best health care. On May 20th, I reintroduced the Help Veterans Save for Health Care Act, which would allow U.S. veterans with service-connected disabilities to remain eligible for a health savings account (HSA). Right now, the IRS makes them choose between receiving VA care or continuing their HSA, and this is WRONG! Also, to help our local veterans I’ve been working for several years with the Dallas VA to open a local clinic. Last year, the Collin County Community Based Outpatient Clinic was finally approved. The VA recently closed bids for locations of the clinic and it is now reviewing possible facilities. I know many veterans are looking forward to its opening later this year!
As we all gather together on Memorial Day to honor the great Americans who fought – and some who died – to protect the freedoms we hold so dear, I encourage you to take your thanks a step further. Every year I hold a Congressional Veterans Commendation (CVC) Ceremony, which honors those who served in the Armed Forces and are giving back to their communities today. If you know a veteran who you would like to see individually recognized, please nominate them! For information on how to do this, please call my Plano office at (469) 304-0382 or visit my website.
To all our veterans, troops, and their families – I wish you a Happy Memorial Day. Thank you for your service and your sacrifices that allow us the blessing of Freedom. May God bless you and your families in return. I salute you.