Nov 01 2021
Service and Sacrifice
By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer
**Click here to download audio of this week’s column**
It would be hard to overstate the relief Americans felt in 1918 when they heard the “war to end all wars” was over. World War I, the deadliest conflict in history to that point, had ended.
Many families would soon be reunited with fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers – but not every American in the Great War made it home. More than 116,000 Americans perished on the battlefields of Europe, and many were never identified. On November 11, 1921, to recognize the sacrifices of these unnamed heroes, Congress created a national monument in their honor: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
On November 11, we will come together to honor not only the heroes of America’s military, but also 100 years since this unknown veteran of the First World War was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
This Veterans Day, we will again honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Today, each of us has an opportunity to make a difference for the veterans who have served this country and who form such a crucial part of our communities. Community-led efforts to honor, recognize, and care for our veterans can make a big difference in a veteran’s life.
For example, take Omaha’s state-of-the-art new VA ambulatory clinic. Without the passionate efforts of local community and business leaders, it would never have happened.
Before 2016, private citizens and communities could not work in partnership with the VA to complete needed construction projects. I was proud to help lead the effort in Congress to change that. President Obama signed my CHIP IN for Vets Act into law in 2016, which gave five cities, including Omaha, the chance to be part of the planning and construction of VA facilities that can often be slowed by bureaucratic hurdles while our veterans are left to wait.
With the backing of the Omaha community, this excellent new facility was built under budget and ahead of schedule. The program was such a success in Omaha that Representative Don Bacon and I introduced a bill to reauthorize it for another five years, so more great communities across the country have the ability to give back to the men and women who have served this country. President Biden signed our bill into law at the end of September.
Lincoln’s new VA clinic is another recent success story. After years of hard work and collaboration between the community and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the new Victory Park campus finally opened for patients this spring. I advocated with the VA Secretary to redevelop the clinic on the same site for years, and I was honored to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony in 2019.
I have also been proud to support our veterans in other ways in Congress. Last year, I introduced the Veterans Assistance Helpline Act, a bipartisan bill to create a single helpline for veterans to access all VA services in one place. I have also introduced bills to provide veterans with service dogs and give Gold Star families access to the benefits they deserve.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our Nebraska veterans who served in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Their service, their bravery, and their actions kept their fellow Americans safe and – for two decades – prevented terrorists from having a safe haven from which to plan and successfully carry out attacks against our homeland. There is so much we can do to support them. All of us can find a way to show our gratitude for their service.
This Veterans Day, I hope you will take the time to thank a Nebraska veteran for all they have done to protect the American way of life. The United States wouldn’t be the greatest country on the earth without their service and sacrifice.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.
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