Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, as Veterans’ Day 2013 approaches next Monday, I ask that in honoring the brave men and women who have served our Nation, we in Congress honor them in ways that are meaningful and help them return to civilian life after they have served. A mere thank-you is little comfort to a veteran who cannot find meaningful employment, who is striving to provide for his or her family, or who is dealing with post-traumatic stress.
President Woodrow Wilson established this holiday – originally known as “Armistice Day” – on November 11, 1919 when he proclaimed that it would be used to honor the brave Americans who fought and died in World War I. The holiday was officially recognized by the U.S. Congress on June 4, 1946. After the end of World War II, Armistice Day was expanded to honor all veterans of our military services, and the holiday’s name was changed to “Veterans’ Day.”
We should honor our veterans every day, but I believe that this annual holiday is especially important as it allows us to reflect on the true aspect of the sacrifices that our service members have made. Their sacrifices are often made in stressful, frustrating, and dangerous conditions. Yet these brave men and women do not shy from committing themselves to serving our country. It is because of those who have served selflessly, with honor and dignity that we can continue celebrating our history and our way of life.
While I am proud of all of our veterans, I am especially proud of the veterans in my State. Maryland has a long and proud military tradition. Maryland is known as the Old Line State. Some people think that comes from the Mason Dixon Line, but it actually dates back to 1776, less than two months after the Declaration of Independence, when George Washington’s army was nearing annihilation in an indefensible position at Brooklyn Heights. They were faced with overwhelming odds, and the British army – the most powerful military force in the world at the time – was closing in around them. But on this historic day 400 Marylanders who made up the Maryland Line stepped up against those overwhelming odds and ran into the breach in defense of our Nation. Today, there’s a plaque over the mass graves of those citizen soldiers that reads simply this – “In honor of the Maryland 400, who on this battlefield on August 27, 1776, saved the American Army.”
Every year I make it a priority on Veteran’s Day to take an opportunity to thank the millions of brave men and women who served our nation in uniform, and honor them for their courage, dedication and sacrifice. In my first year as a Senator of Maryland I went to Garrison Forrest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills for a Veterans Day observance, as well as attended a Veterans Day Salute and groundbreaking of a new facility for Baltimore Station, which provides innovative therapeutic residential treatment program supporting veterans who are transitioning through the cycle of poverty, addiction, and homelessness to self-sufficiency.
I have also spent Veterans Day at the Leonardtown Cemetery and Crownsville Veterans Cemetery Remembrance Ceremony where I placed wreaths honoring those who have paid the ultimate price in serving our country. Two years ago, I had the privilege of joining Maryland Veterans Affairs Secretary Edward Chow, Jr., to observe Veterans Day at Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery. Through our efforts we were able to announce that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded the cemetery a grant of $1.7 million to make improvements.
Just last year, I had the opportunity to thank the millions of brave men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and risk their lives for our nation when I provided remarks at the Crownsville Veterans Day Ceremony. Additionally, I was invited by the Armed Forces Foundation to speak to students at Manor View Elementary School (located on Fort Meade) as part of their Operation Caring Classroom program. During my visit, I talked to students about Veterans Day, and the importance of honoring the service of men and women in the military, as well as the sacrifices of their families. We far too often forget to thank the families of our Veterans for all they have sacrificed. We want our veterans and their families to know we are grateful for their service to our nation and are here today to honor them as well.
This year I will have a chance to say thank you to Veterans across Maryland as I participate in the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 451 Veterans Day Celebration and Baltimore City’s Veterans Day Celebration sponsored by the Baltimore City Veterans Commission. This Veterans Day, I am reminded that Maryland is home to over 470,000 veterans to whom we made solemn promises. I am committed to making sure they receive the services and benefits they earned, and the support they were promised. The United States is the strongest nation in the world and I am proud to honor Maryland’s veterans with my gratitude and respect.
For more than 237 years, Marylanders in every branch of service have been at the forefront of providing distinguished service for our national defense. Let me mention a few examples; Marylanders are justifiably proud of amazing soldiers like Private First Class, Kevin Jaye, an Army hero, born and raised in Smithsburg, who saw his life change when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in Afghanistan. Kevin lost his right leg below the knee, but despite the many surgeries and the long recovery process, he’s determined to overcome these challenges. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, more than 1,500 U.S. troops have become amputees and Kevin is one of them.
We are justifiably proud of naval heroes like Navy Hospital Corpsman Michael Couch who received a Purple Heart earlier this year as a result of the injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan. Michael was traveling in a convoy when his vehicle rolled over an IED which detonated. He was knocked unconscious, and his eardrum was ruptured. After three weeks of rehabilitation he rejoined his unit. Michael is now stationed at the Naval Academy where he is an optometry technician who pre-screens the vision of midshipmen before they meet with an optometrist.
We are justifiably proud of Marines from Maryland like Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Vanzorro Gross Jr., who was awarded the Purple Heart in May by Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River. Corpsman Gross, received the Purple Heart for wounds received in action during a raid while deployed in Afghanistan with the Marines. During the firefight eight service personnel were injured and two were killed. Corpsman Gross was 30 days into a 6-month deployment at the time of the attack, and was sent home with damage to the bones in his foot. He had a 3-inch hole in his foot from the shrapnel damage and has undergone four orthopedic surgeries so far to reconstruct it. Despite these injuries, when visited in Walter Reid National Military Medical Center by a commanding officer, Corpsman. Gross’ first question was “When can I go back?”
We are justifiably proud of Air Force Airman Captain Barry F. Crawford, Jr. a member of the Maryland Air National Guard, who was recently awarded the Air Force Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor) and Purple Heart for his extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States as Special Tactics Officer near Lagham Province, Afghanistan. Captain Crawford is credited for taking decisive action to save the lives of three wounded Afghan soldiers and evacuate two Afghan soldiers killed in action. Captain Crawford is only the fifth recipient, since 9/11, to receive the Air Force Cross.
We are justifiably proud of Security Forces Airmen stationed at Warfield Air National Guard Base, who were awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement while assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Tactical Security Element at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Master Sgts. John Duly and Olen D. Smith III led a 15-man tactical security element that provided security wherever the Office of Special Investigations detachment needed to go. On a routine mission, an Army platoon came under attack from Taliban fighters, and Sergeants Duly and Smith moved their unit to provide support. For the next 48 hours their unit provided security and over watch, responded to a vehicle rollover, initiated and received direct fire, coordinated with helicopter and fixed wing assets and responded to a vehicle hit by an IED.
And we are justifiably proud of the A-10 pilots from the 104th Fighter Squadron with the Maryland Air National Guard assigned to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, who recently flew as part of a harrowing mission to support ambushed Coalition forces fighting during dangerous weather conditions. A dozen pilots protected more than 90 Coalition service members during a major battle in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
All across the services, our military members and veterans from Maryland are the best in the Department of Defense. But Congress simply has not done enough to provide enough support to our veterans. For example, unemployment is also an issue for the veterans’ community. Veterans, particularly young veterans from our most recent conflicts, are having trouble getting jobs. In this September’s Jobs Report, the Bureau of Labor reported that while the unemployment rate for nonveterans was 7.2 percent and the unemployment rate for all veterans was at 6.5 percent, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was at an astonishing 10.1 percent. I find this troubling, as the experience that these veterans acquired during their recent military service should make them invaluable to prospective employers. We must do better in providing employment opportunities for our veterans.
Mr. President, ultimately, Veterans’ Day is an opportunity for all of us to thank our veterans for their service and to renew our commitment to serving and honoring them each and every day of the year. A true marker of our Nation’s worth is our willingness to serve those who have served us. As we continue to wind down our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan after a decade of war, we need to gear up our commitment to our veterans. Our veterans deserve every possible tool we can provide to help ease their transition to civilian life. I am committed to making sure that our veterans receive the services and benefits they earned, and the support they were promised and deserve. The United States is the strongest Nation in the world because of our veterans and we owe them and their families our gratitude and our respect.
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