From the blood-soaked beaches of Normandy to the steaming triple-canopy jungles of Vietnam and the sweltering heat of the Middle East deserts, America’s fighting forces have answered the call — a fact not lost on West Virginia’s political leaders.
As Veterans Day approached, homage was paid Friday to the men and women who donned uniforms to serve the nation from one conflict to another.
But the honor that annually falls on Nov. 11 shouldn’t end there, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., told an audience at Summers County Middle School.
“Our veterans made a pledge when they left the warmth and safety of their homes to travel to distant countries to protect our freedoms and our safety here at home,” the 3rd District congressman said.
“They promised to defend our country and our constitution at all costs. They put their own lives in harm’s way to make certain America was secure. Our nation must never forget our veterans. They were there when we needed them the most. It is because of these honored faces of the brave that we are free to enjoy our daily lives here in the land of the free and I will strive always to ensure that we repay that solemn debt.”
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., shared that sentiment, saying elections come as a reminder that it is “special to live in a peaceful, thriving democracy.”
“While elections only come ever so often, Americans risk their lives every day, all over the world, to defend freedom and opportunity back home,” Capito said.
“I am forever grateful to the men and women who serve in the military for their selfless service. And to the families with loved ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, we will forever honor their legacy.”
One of her goals is a bill she authored, designed to treat veterans suffering traumatic brain injuries (TBI). It calls for specific case managers in rural areas to help veterans, allowing them to contract with private providers so the veterans and families aren’t burdened with being away from home for protracted lengths while undergoing treatment.
Rahall, the senior member of the House Military Veterans Caucus, pointed out that some 51,000 veterans live in southern West Virginia alone.
And many are returning from hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan, he pointed out, emphasizing that legislation to provide educational help and jobs must be approved.
While the annual ceremonies and parades are important, Rahall added, “Our veterans have earned the thanks of a grateful nation, and I will strive always to ensure that we repay that solemn debt.”
At Morgantown High School, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., took part in a panel discussion with veterans who relayed accounts of their wartime experiences to students.
“So many men and women bravely serve our country — often far away from their families for long periods of time — and don’t have enough opportunities to bring those stories home to share,” the senator said.
“Those proud and private legacies sometimes remain locked inside.”
Rockefeller, the longest serving member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, considered it gratifying to find so many students attending the Take A Veteran to School program. “It speaks volumes about these students’ commitment to our veterans, their great service, and their legacies and that is to be commended,” Rockefeller said.