The Ripon Forum

Volume 54, No. 5

Veterans Day 2020

“Thank Them with Words, but also with Actions.”

By on November 8, 2020

by LARRY BUCSHON

Larry Bucshon receiving his certificate for completing Direct Commission Officer School in 1989.

America is the land of the free because of the brave. I am truly thankful for the countless men and women who decide to selflessly put themselves between us and danger so that we may live free in the land of liberty.  For me, Veterans Day is an opportunity to truly appreciate our veterans and their service and to remember that we must not only thank them for their service and sacrifices with our words and public ceremonies, but also with our actions.

During my medical training, I had the privilege to spend part of my residency at the VA Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  While working at the VA, I cared for countless veterans. I experienced firsthand what it takes to care for veterans and the unique health challenges that they can face because of their service. I also spent a decade in the U.S. Navy Reserve as a medical professional, giving me additional insight to the health issues of those serving in uniform.

During my medical training, I had the privilege to spend part of my residency at the VA Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Even though a great deal has changed in the VA system since my residency, the one thing that has not changed is that our veterans have earned the right to quality, accessible, and timely health care through their service to our nation.  As a Member of Congress and a physician, I believe that it is our solemn duty as a nation to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligation to our nation’s veterans.

Over the past decade, the VA has faced significant challenges ensuring that our nation’s veterans receive the level of care that they have earned through their service.  Congress has rightly recognized the need for reforms and additional resources, and I am proud to have co-sponsored and supported numerous pieces of legislation that have helped millions of veterans across the nation.  One of the most significant pieces of legislation that we’ve passed during my time in Congress is the VA MISSION Act. This landmark legislation, which was signed into law by President Trump in 2018, is helping to build a stronger VA by improving the recruitment of medical professionals who care for our veterans, updating outdated and inefficient facilities with modern infrastructure and supplies, and consolidating duplicative programs into one cohesive program.

I experienced firsthand what it takes to care for veterans and the unique health challenges that they can face because of their service.

While the VA Mission Act and other reforms of the VA are having a great impact, we cannot rest on these accomplishments.  We still have more to do to ensure the care we are providing veterans is meeting their needs.  Often the scars left on our men and women in uniform are not physical, but rather physiological. That is why in 2014, I introduced the Ensuring Veterans Resiliency Act, a bill to improve psychiatric care in military and veteran communities. Many of the brave men and women who have served our country return home without proper attention to their mental health needs. During my career as a physician, and my time working at the VA, I saw first-hand the need for new dedicated methods that encourage more psychiatrists to choose a career helping veterans. This legislation was structured to help hire many qualified psychiatrists across the country to provide our veterans the assistance they need and deserve. While it did not become law, I am still a tireless advocate for this cause.

On Veterans Day, I also believe that it is important that we take the time to reflect upon the service of our veterans and ensure that future generations know firsthand what past generations have fought and died for. That is why one of my favorite opportunities as a Member of Congress is to personally meet with the men and women who have served and to hear their stories firsthand.  I frequently greet veterans from the 8th District who participate in the Honor Flight of Southwest Indiana. To hear the stories from these veterans, often veterans of World War II, while they visit Washington, D.C. is a privilege that I will always cherish.  In 2019, I had the pleasure of meeting the oldest living veteran in Vanderburgh County, Indiana to celebrate her 100th birthday. Irene Blessing served as a nurse at the 228th army hospital in England during World War II where she treated men who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. While Irene is no longer with us, I will forever remember meeting her, and I will continue to pass down her story of bravery and courage.

This Veterans Day, I challenge all Americans to join me and find a veteran to personally thank for their service and love of our nation and to take the time to listen to their stories. Having served in the U.S. Navy Reserve for nearly a decade, I have the greatest respect for the brave men and women of our armed forces that answered the call to serve. Putting on the uniform of the United States of America, the greatest team on Earth, is truly an honor that is unmatched.

Larry Bucshon represents the 8th district of Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives. He previously spent nearly a decade serving in the United States Navy Reserve.

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