Honoring our armed forces

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As Armed Forces Day approaches on May 16, I am reminded of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. With their selfless dedication to defending the ideals of the American people, these service members form the backbone of our great nation. We are eternally grateful for their service.

Armed Forces day was first celebrated on May 20, 1950, as the iron curtain took shape in Europe. The day was created to honor those serving in the Armed Forces and to give the public an understanding of the role of the military in civilian life. Almost 60 years later – as the United States faces new threats to international peace and stability – this day retains its necessity and importance.

South Dakota is home to more than 73,000 veterans. This is nearly 10 percent of our population and does not include those currently serving on active duty. Women and men from across the state have answered the call to duty. Like all Americans, I am awed by their dedication and professionalism.

My oldest son is in the Army National Guard and has served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and most recently, Iraq while in the U.S Army.

As the father of a member of the Armed Forces, I understand the stress on morale caused by poor quality-of-life issues not only affects the preparedness of our military units, but discourages some of our most able personnel from re-enlisting and makes recruitment more difficult. Our Armed Forces face a difficult, dangerous job and make tremendous sacrifices in order to protect our nation.

But we must also recognize the families of our military for the immense contributions they make in supporting their loved ones. It requires an incredible amount of selflessness and devotion to take in stride all that is demanded of them.

Throughout my career in the Congress, I have been a strong proponent of better funding for military pay, health care, education and housing. As the chairman of the Military Construction/VA Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue working to ensure the U.S. military remains the best trained and best equipped fighting force in the world.

All of us should take this opportunity to reflect upon the sacrifices made by our nation’s servicemen and women. We must never forget the perils they face in time of war and the price they pay for our freedom.

I encourage you to attend a local Armed Forces Day observation or consider other activities that honor the sacrifices that these men and women have made.