The Ripon Forum

Volume 54, No. 5

Veterans Day 2020

“They made it a priority to fight for us.”

By on November 8, 2020


U.S. Navy Lieutenant Jimmy Panetta in the Kunar Valley of Afghanistant in 2008.

Veterans Day provides an opportunity to recognize and honor all men and women who have answered the call of duty through military service to the United States of America. It also is a day on which our communities not only must express our appreciation, but also strengthen our spirit for those who served and are serving our country.

The central coast of California is home to numerous veterans and servicemembers. My community embodies and exemplifies service before self, duty to others, and respect for all. That is why on Veterans Day we are inspired with a renewed commitment to those shared values and reminded of the service and sacrifice needed to uphold not just those principles, but also our democracy.

Imbued with that sense of service, I was mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007. As an intelligence officer, I was assigned to a special operations task force and responsible for gathering information on high value targets. Upon returning home, I served as a board member of the Veterans Transition Center where I worked on addressing veteran homelessness and improving resources for veterans and their families. As a local prosecutor, I pressed local leaders in the criminal justice system to establish our community’s first ever Veterans Treatment Court to ensure that veterans receive the empathy they deserve and services they earned. Moreover, I joined forces with local leaders and veterans to establish the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery on the former Fort Ord. In 2015, I was honored to be named Monterey County Veteran of the Year. Veterans Day allows me to reflect on those endeavors but, more importantly, reinforce my everlasting commitment in Congress to serve those who served us.

Veterans Day provides an opportunity to recognize and honor all men and women who have answered the call of duty through military service.

In Congress, our pledge to veterans is fortified by fellow veterans. At one time, veterans made up more than 70% of Congress. Today, veteran representation in Congress is near a historic low of 18%. However, this trendline may be changing as recent elections sent a surge of veterans to Congress. Seeking to solidify the bond amongst veteran Members of Congress, I co-founded the bipartisan For Country Caucus. That caucus provides principled veteran members a bipartisan platform to create a more productive government. Through the caucus, 20 veteran members advance national priorities with integrity, civility, and mutual respect. From health care to housing, justice to equality, and resourcing to respect, we work together to deliver on those issues for our veterans. As policy makers, we look to Veterans Day to recommit ourselves, regardless of background, experience, or ideology, to provide unified service to our veterans and our country.

I uniquely recognize the service and sacrifices required of servicemembers and their families, both during and after their time in uniform. As members of the Armed Forces, they made it a priority to fight for us. As a veteran and a Member of Congress, I have made it a priority to fight for them. Although Veterans Day allows each of us and our communities to formally express our gratitude for those who served, let it also reinvigorate all of us in our obligation to serve our veterans every day.

Jimmy Panetta represents the 20th district of California. He was commissioned as an Intelligence Officer with the United States Navy Reserve in 2003. In 2007, he volunteered for active duty with a Special Operations task force deployed to Afghanistan. He was later awarded a Bronze Star for his courageous service in a combat zone.

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