The Ripon Forum

Volume 53, No. 5

Veterans Day 2019

“To All of Our Nation’s Veterans, We Thank You”

By on November 3, 2019


Brigadier General Steve Stivers

In 1981, I joined the Ohio Army National Guard.  At the time, one of the biggest motivators was to help pay for college at The Ohio State University, but what I quickly realized was that the lessons learned through my service were just as valuable as the classes I was taking.  No two stories of service are alike, and for some, it was more difficult.  However, I will always be appreciative of the lessons I learned that have helped to shape who I am today: a husband and father, a Member of Congress, and a Brigadier General.

Over the past 34 years, my actions have been guided by a mission.  Whether during my time in the Ohio Senate, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, or now, in the U.S. House of Representatives, my experience in uniform has taught me that focusing on a mission makes it harder to be distracted by other things.  Particularly in the chaos of Washington, where the news of the day can turn the entire city on its head, knowing that my mission is to deliver results for the people of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District helps me to focus on the things that matter, like cutting taxes, improving health care, or ensuring our veterans have the care that they deserve.

Second only to the mission are the people that serve alongside you.  Your priority must be your team, the people who are responsible for helping you to achieve your mission. As a Brigadier General, it’s my responsibility to lead, but also to listen, and to do right by those in my command.  In 2003 and 2004, I was overseas in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, and Djibouti with 400 soldiers under my command.  I will always be thankful that all 400 of us came home safely to our families, and even now, over 15 years later, I’m inspired by their commitment to our mission.

My experience in uniform has taught me that focusing on a mission makes it harder to be distracted by other things.

My deployment was a huge learning experience for me, and one that I draw on today.  There are nearly 800,000 Ohioans counting on me to be their voice in Congress.  I hear from them each day about the issues that they care about, and I’m inspired by their passion for improving our nation.  I try every day to work hard and to make them proud.

I believe that the lessons I learned as a soldier have made me a more effective legislator, particularly when it comes to advocating for our veterans.  That’s why one of my current missions is to help ease the transition from military service to civilian life, especially when it comes to their mental health.

Together with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, I introduced the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act.  This bill would create a work-therapy program under the Veterans Administration (VA) for veterans to learn the art and science of training dogs for service. It’s about giving veterans a new mission — training a dog — that often helps alleviate their symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The bill then goes one step further.  Building on the bond that’s formed during training, veterans may then adopt their new canine partner.  Trained to sense emotional signals for their veteran, these dogs are highly-skilled and can make a real difference in the day-to-day life of veterans still experiencing symptoms of PTS.

A soldier who served under my command in Operation Iraqi Freedom recently told me what his service dog, Athena, means to him. He was able to board a plane for the first time in over a decade, he was able to take his fiancée out to dinner and he was able to return to normalcy.  He got his life back because he knew that Athena had his back.  By pairing veterans with trained, skilled animals, our bill offers a new lease on life for many of our service members.

This Veterans Day, I would challenge each of you, not just to thank the veterans in your life, but to ask them about the lessons that they learned.

Being a member of the Ohio Army National Guard has given me countless lessons that I rely on every day as a Member of Congress, particularly when it comes to paying it forward for our veterans.  Focusing on the mission and never losing sight of the people at the heart of that mission, I believe, makes me a more effective legislator. I am confident that the veterans across the country lean on the lessons they learned in the service, making them assets in every company and community they are a part of.

This Veterans Day, I would challenge each of you, not just to thank the veterans in your life, but to ask them about the lessons that they learned.  Those lessons, and the men and women who embody them, are what make our nation the land of the free, and the home of the brave.  And to all of our nation’s veterans, we thank you.

Steve Stivers represents Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. Stivers has served over 30 years in the Ohio Army National Guard and holds the rank of Brigadier General. He served the United States overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, and Djibouti, receiving the Bronze Star for his leadership throughout the deployment.

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