Q&A: Veterans Day 2018
Q: As we observe the centennial anniversary of Armistice Day, what is your message to Iowans?
A: First, I join with all of my fellow Americans to pay tribute to all of the men and women who have served our country honorably in uniform during times of war and peace. This year, we mark a special centennial salute on Nov. 11. On this day one hundred years ago, Armistice Day commemorated the cease fire agreement in World War I on the 11th hour, of the 11 day, of the 11th month. Congress formalized the date in 1938 as a legal holiday to celebrate world peace and honor veterans for their service during World War I. On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law the bill that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all military veterans — of all wars — every year on Nov. 11.
It is especially fitting to reflect on the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans so close to Election Day. Millions of America's sons and daughters have lost life and limb to fight tyranny and authoritarianism and protect the cherished freedoms of self-government and individual rights. That includes the most fundamental check on government: the ballot box. As Americans, we must protect our republic by taking seriously the civic duty of representative government. That means we must not take the right to vote for granted.
Iowans who have served and currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces stand shoulder to shoulder as patriots and defenders of freedom. They take an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." They march in the boot-steps of those who fought on the battlefields before them to defend the principles of liberty and natural rights. They have answered the call to duty that’s been handed down from generation to generation. This legacy of service and sacrifice started not long after Iowa became a state in 1846. During the Civil War, the Hawkeye state recruited the highest percentage of its "service age" (ages 15-40) male population.
We also were the only state to send a Graybeard Regiment, men ages 45 and older, many of whom were serving in their 70s and 80s. In total, more than 76,000 Iowans enlisted and served in dozens of hard-fought battles for the Union Army. Iowa's veterans have served with honor and distinction through times of war and peace. Since the earliest days of statehood through 2018, Iowans have put their lives on the line to protect and defend the blessings of freedom, justice and liberty for all. Many loved ones from so many Iowa families have paid the ultimate price for the immeasurable gift of freedom.
Q: How many veterans call Iowa home?
A: As we observe the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I, we ought to reflect on the military service of 114,242 Iowans who fought on those battlefields. And for the next 100 years, Iowa continued to send hundreds of thousands more sons and daughters to the front lines of war: 226,638 in World War II; approximately 85,000 in the Korean War; 115,000 during the Vietnam War; and, 3,050 in the Gulf War, with thousands continuing to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the VA, Iowa is home to 206,430 veterans, making up nearly 9 percent of our state population. Of those, 15,140 are women and 13,333 are military retirees who spent a whole career in the military.
We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for their patriotism, service and sacrifice. They share in the bonds of service, united by their solemn oath to serve. It is our duty, as a nation, to uphold the promises made to our veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves.
As one of Iowa's U.S. Senators, I stand shoulder to shoulder with Sen. Joni Ernst, the first female combat veteran to serve in the United States Senate, to help ensure Iowa veterans receive the services and benefits they have earned and deserve. I have worked to improve access to community care close to home; fix excessive wait times for appointments and receive timely delivery of care; root out sexual assault in the military and improve accountability in the military justice system; seek accountability for hiring unqualified health care providers at the VA; help veterans make a smooth transition from the military to home, work and community; enact stronger suicide prevention and mental health services; and, help veterans cut through bureaucratic red tape at the Department of Veterans Affairs. As long as I'm serving in the United States Senate, I will do whatever it takes to serve the needs of our veterans so they are neither forsaken, nor forgotten.