Chairman Takano: “We are called to remember— continue our commitment to those who have served.”
Jenni Geurink (202-225-9756)
Miguel R. Salazar
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) joined volunteers at the ‘Carry the Load’ Day of Service at the Alexandria National Cemetery to thank those who spent the day remembering those we’ve lost since 9/11 by cleaning the cemetery headstones and grounds.
Full text of Chairman Takano’s remarks below:
Good morning-- thank you for inviting me here this morning on this somber day.
First, I want to take a moment to recognize Colonel Danny Pummill, former Under Secretary for Benefits at the Veterans Benefits Administration and 9/11 Pentagon survivor, who’s here with us today. Thank you for all you’ve done.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 years. 18 years since a cowardly attack, 18 years at war across multiple fronts. In that time, countless servicemembers have joined the military, undergone training, deployed, and many have completed the transition from servicemember to veteran.
As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I feel the tremendous responsibility that comes with this role and our duty to recognize the sacrifices our veterans and their families made on 9/11 and in the 18 years since that day. It’s my job to ensure our country honors the promise we made to those who served and those that continue to sacrifice on our behalf.
For those who we’ve lost, and those buried here, it is my job to ensure their service is never forgotten.
All around us we see reminders of their tremendous service. We see the physical markers of the ultimate sacrifices made by so many men and women in service to our country. And today, we have the privilege to ensure their final resting place is properly cared for.
Dedicating our time to care for our National Cemeteries not only is the right thing to do, but it helps us remember and reflect on those we have lost since 9/11.
But our commitment to ensuring that no veteran is ever forgotten should continue beyond today. I’m glad to see that the VA through the new edition of the Veterans Legacy Memorial online platform, allows Americans to see and learn about the stories of those buried in our VA national cemeteries.
In my district in Riverside, I’ve seen how the Veterans Legacy Program has opened us up to a world of stories.
Now through VA’s Veterans Legacy Memorial we can benefit from the more than 3.7 million stories of veterans buried in National Cemeteries across the country.
Thanks to this expansion, we can even learn the stories of those buried around us today. As you clean today, I would encourage all to choose a veteran to remember. Find their headstone, pull out your phone, and read their story. It’s a simple act, but one that we need to do-- especially today. Be moved. Be inspired. Be humbled.
We’re called to remember-- but more importantly, we are called to continue our commitment to those who have served.
The nature of conflict changed after 9/11. It changed our country and it continues to dramatically change our veteran population. Today, we have more women, LGBTQ, minority, and aging veterans than ever before. And as this population changes, we have to make sure VA changes with it.
To truly keep the promises we’ve made to our veterans, we need to readjust the way we deliver high-quality VA care in the next decade. And more so, we need to fundamentally rethink the needs of the ever changing veteran population.
I think we can do that-- but we have to work together.
We must ensure our veterans get the healthcare they earned and deserve.
We must ensure they have the tools they need to transition into civilian life.
We must ensure our veterans and their families get the benefits they fought for.
And most importantly, we must ensure that we never forget their service and that we honor their legacy with action.
Today, by cleaning these headstones and caring for these grounds together, we can continue that work.
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