The Ripon Forum

Volume 53, No. 5

Veterans Day 2019

“Every Service Member is United in Their Choice to Put Service Before Self.”

By on November 3, 2019


Staff Sergeant Brian Mast

The most important and unregrettable time of my life was the 12 years I spent in the Army. I became a bomb technician because I wanted to save lives and serve a cause greater than myself. I nearly gave my own life for that — I lost both my legs and a finger when a roadside bomb detonated beneath me — and have known more heroes than I can count who died defending others.

I remember the day I was injured — September 19, 2010 — very clearly. What I remember most, though, isn’t the bomb detonating. Instead, it’s hearing my fellow soldiers yelling “EOD is hit, EOD is hit.” I remember them rushing to my side, I remember seeing the world go by horizontally as they carried my stretcher across the terrain to load me onto a helicopter, and I remember them rendering me one final salute as the helicopter took off. Their selfless acts of courage are the only reason that I am still here today.

Then, I remember nothing until I woke up days later after numerous surgeries, which included amputating both of my legs and stitching my hand to my chest to prevent further damage. Despite all this, when I arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., I was surrounded by men and women who were significantly more grievously wounded than myself. Nonetheless, they pushed me every day to be the best version of myself and demonstrated a remarkable resolve that inspires me to this day.

I became a bomb technician because I wanted to save lives and serve a cause greater than myself.

Each Veterans Day, I think of these men and women — heroes like Marine vet Rob Jones, who after losing both of his legs, ran 31 marathons in 31 days to raise money for veterans’ charities and is now running to continue his service to our country by representing Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.  I also think of the many amazing health care professionals who helped piece us back together.

It’s for these veterans — and the many great nurses, doctors, and other health care professionals who serve them — that I have dedicated my time in Congress to fixing the issues that still plague our veterans health system.  That’s why I opened the first-ever Congressional office inside a VA hospital to help veterans when and where they need it most. Since opening in 2017, our office has helped more than 500 veterans at the West Palm Beach VA resolve issues like disability claims and benefits appeals when they had nowhere else to turn.

I believe every single Member of Congress should be able to do the same at their local VA, which is why I introduced the Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act to pave the way to make that high level of service a reality for veterans all across the country. By cutting down on bureaucracy, we can fix these problems and ensure that future generations of servicemen and women are not burdened with the same challenges facing today’s veterans.

The bottom line is that we can and must do more to support our nation’s veterans.  So, on Veterans Day, please join me in recognizing our neighbors who had the fortitude to put on the uniform and dedicate their life to serving our country. By swearing the oath, donning the uniform, and offering to give the last beat of their heart, every service member is united in their choice to put service before self and commit their life to a larger cause.

The very least we can do is to return that commitment.

Brian Mast represents the 18th District of Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Mast served in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years, earning medals including The Bronze Star Medal, The Army Commendation Medal for Valor, The Purple Heart Medal, and The Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

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