The Ripon Forum

Volume 53, No. 5

Veterans Day 2019

“We Will Always Need Defenders, and We Will Always Protect Them.”

By on November 3, 2019


Brigadier General Don Bacon in 2013.

Thirty-four years have passed since I joined the United States Air Force. As Veterans Day approaches, I cannot help but reflect on the many changes I saw over 30 years wearing the uniform. But, one thing that has never changed is the need for America’s best to defend our freedoms!

Resources and defense capabilities have transformed drastically since the 1980s. There were no desktop computers, cell phones, or digital satellites monitoring our enemies’ every move. We detected threats utilizing risky aerial surveillance missions, bulky radios, and old-fashioned radar installations. The geopolitical environment at that time was much simpler. There were two superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union, each supported by their respective allies. The rising tensions between us and the Soviet Union fueled what was known as the Cold War and it was believed that the Soviet Union would remain our most enduring enemy.

However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union shortly thereafter, we thought there would be a new world order and hoped for extended peace. But, our high hopes of peace were quickly dashed. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the United States’ forces quickly defeated the fifth largest army in the world. Then, we saw genocide and ugly atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda, yet destruction wasn’t limited to other countries.

Everyday Americans will continue to serve and protect our nation in extraordinary ways, as they have for generations.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed America forever. No longer a nation-state, the enemy became more elusive, tied not to a country, but to an ideology that transcended geography. In response, the United States began its longest military campaign to date in an effort to break the Taliban control of Afghanistan and destroy the masterminds and financiers of the terrorist attacks.

While counter-terrorism operations continue today, we are witnessing a shift in the global power paradigm – a rise in competition from China, a revanchist Russia, and the re-emergence of profound disorder in key regions like the Middle East. New challenges will arise, and adversaries will undermine our strengths and target our vulnerabilities. Thus, the need for Americans to serve and defend our country will always exist. We must support our military alliances and foster global security, stability, and economic prosperity.

I am a firm believer that we must honor the commitments we’ve made to our veterans – those who place themselves in harm’s way to defend our values and way of life. We will always need them. To do this, I co-founded and currently serve as co-chair of the For Country Caucus. Each member of the Caucus actively serves in, or is a veteran of, the United States military.

Comprised of Republican and Democrat members, we have pledged to serve in Congress with the core values vital to our respective services – integrity, civility, and the courage to utilize our military camaraderie to break through the current political dysfunction and place the needs of our country over party.

During my time in office, I have co-sponsored several pieces of legislation that support veterans and their families, including H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which President Trump signed into law on June 25, 2019. This bill will extend disability benefits covering medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure, particularly to those stationed on ships off the coast of Vietnam, or those who served on Vietnam’s land between the years 1962 and 1975.

We will always have their back after their service ends. This is what Veterans Day means to me.

I also believe it is important to be an advocate for the 2 million female veterans living in the United States and provide the proper medical care to all veterans, regardless of gender. That is why I co-sponsored H.R. 4096, the Improving Oversight of Women Veterans’ Care Act of 2019, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to submit an annual report to Congress regarding women veterans’ accessibility to gender-specific health care under community care contracts.

Furthermore, I co-sponsored H.R. 3350, the VA Emergency Transportation Act which would authorize a reimbursement to veterans for the cost of emergency medical transportation to a federal facility thereby relieving veterans of the financial burden for transportation to receive the medical treatment they need.

To be prepared for the future, we must remember our history, learn from our mistakes, and think strategically — 30 years into the future — to innovate and train for the threats that lie ahead. Our capability to engage and defeat enemies has greatly improved over the last 30 years, and everyday Americans will continue to serve and protect our nation in extraordinary ways, as they have for generations. We will always have their back after their service ends. This is what Veterans Day means to me.

God bless America and those who serve.

Don Bacon represents the 2nd District of Nebraska in the U.S. House of Representatives. He previously spent nearly 30 Years serving in the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 2014 as a Brigadier General.

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