From America’s founding, it was the Declaration of Independence that proclaimed our freedom, but the soldier who won it. It is the Constitution that outlines our rights, but the soldier who secures them. Congress has the sole responsibility for declaring war, but we must never forget that it’s the soldier who is put in harm’s way by these decisions.

The greatness of this country rests in those who have fought to preserve everything that we hold dear. Many of those that have engaged in this fight call South Dakota their home. To those individuals, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for putting your country first.

While the debt we owe to these women and men can never be repaid, we all have a responsibility to make sure these heroes get the respect and appreciation they have earned.

This week, we celebrate Veterans Day – a day set aside to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, their love of country, and their willingness to serve and sacrifice on our behalf.

In honor of this day, we must ask ourselves: What is it that we can do for those who gave up so much for us? What can we do for them, not just on Veterans Day, but on every day of the year?

First, we must never forget the courage that has been shown over and over again by veterans throughout our country’s history. In World War II, brave soldiers went head to head with one of the greatest evils our world has ever known. They defended our homeland, our way of life, and the promise of freedom for millions around the globe. In the Cold War, soldiers entered Korea and Vietnam in defense of democracy. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are again called to defend our homeland and defeat terrorism so our children and grandchildren can grow up in a safer world.

We must also honor our veterans with our actions as well as our words. Across South Dakota, groups like the VFW and American Legion work hard to serve our veterans. I challenge every reader to support the organizations that support our veterans.

Finally, we must all support not just the warrior, but the warrior’s cause. Wherever our military’s fight is taking place – whether it’s in Afghanistan or back here in South Dakota as veterans try to re-adjust to civilian life – we must make sure we do all we can so that our troops and our veterans succeed.

For Congress’ part, my colleagues in the House and I have passed a number of bills over the past year that would improve benefits to those who have served in our military. I’m proud that even as the purse strings tighten, the House is focused on finding a way to give a cost of living adjustment to veterans in 2014.

I am also working to shrink the Veterans Administration backlog. It is unacceptable for our veterans to be waiting for months and sometimes years for their healthcare benefit claims to be processed. I will continue to demand that the promises we’ve made are promises we keep.

I am proud of South Dakota’s great tradition of military service. Ten Medal of Honor recipients and some of the greatest pilots in history hail from our state. Please join me this week and every week in remembering our veterans, their families, and the reason for which we are fighting today. Remember that while we live in liberty, it is the soldier who earned it on our behalf.


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