The Ripon Forum

Volume 55, No. 5

Veterans Day 2021

Equipping Our Veterans for the Next Season of Service

By on November 8, 2021

by BRAD WENSTRUP

Our veterans are valuable.

The men and women whom I served alongside in Iraq are some of the most skilled and experienced leaders I have ever met. They have been tested under fire. They have enormous competency and capability to bring to the table — to any table.

Yet when they come home, too many of these servicemembers struggle to have their talents fully understood and utilized amidst transitioning back to civilian life. I have seen it happen many times. Going from a deep sense of belonging and feeling essential to a mission, to fellow soldiers, to a commander, or to a unit, to feeling less essential in a civilian world can have a deep mental and emotional impact. In reality, there’s no such thing as a “non-essential” American. Everyone is essential to themselves, their families, friends, and communities, and to our society. Our veterans are no different.

Too often, veterans are viewed as cases to be “helped” instead of powerhouses to be harnessed.

Still, this feeling of disconnection or lack of purpose can be exacerbated by the fact that too often, veterans are viewed as cases to be “helped” instead of powerhouses to be harnessed. This is not only a disservice to the men and women who have honed their skills while wearing the uniform of this nation, it’s also a disservice to our economy and our country who can greatly benefit across sectors from their knowledge, expertise, and leadership experience.

We need to do better by our warfighters. We’ve made great strides in improving veteran care by cutting through red tape with strong, bipartisan laws, like the VA MISSION Act. Now, we must continue better supporting our veterans in their next seasons by connecting them with the right employment and education opportunities. We can do this by aligning transition, education, and employment programs in a “Fourth Administration” within the VA to help streamline organization and better serve those who served us in uniform. I am proud to lead a bipartisan, bicameral effort to accomplish this by introducing H.R. 2494, the Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan (VET OPP) Act of 2021.

For most veterans, there is no such thing as “life after service.” Service is their life.

This is just one step forward among many that need to be taken to empower veterans with the tools they need to effectively transition from serving our country in uniform to contributing to our businesses, industries, and communities throughout their careers as civilians. For most veterans, there is no such thing as “life after service.” Service is their life. It’s not just what they do. It’s part of who they are. Whether it’s on a battlefield or volunteering in their hometown, they are committed to leaving this country stronger, more peaceful, and more prosperous for the next generation. Our role is simply to empower and equip them for a new season of service as civilians. 

On this Veterans Day, we are deeply grateful to all of those who have stepped forward to serve this country out of love for what it stands for and what they are protecting. That love doesn’t go away when they hang up their uniform for the last time. Neither should our commitment to them. Our obligation, as a country and as communities, extends far beyond gratitude on this day or any day. It includes action. We are free because of their courage and competency. As long as I remain in Congress, I will continue working to ensure that these men and women are equipped with the tools they need to effectively serve our country both in uniform and long after.

Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M., represents the 2nd district of Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is an Iraq War veteran, having deployed in 2005 – 2006 with the US Army’s 344th Combat Support Hospital, Task Force 344, to Abu Ghraib, Iraq, where he served as the Chief of Surgery, and the Director of Wound Care. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and many campaign medals for his service to our country. In 2018, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his heroism during the 2017 congressional baseball shooting.

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