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“Independence Day is not traditionally a day to honor the accomplishments of our men and women who serve in uniform, like Veterans Day. It’s not traditionally a day to think about fallen soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, like Memorial Day. As we celebrate our independence, however, we ought to also bear in mind the bravery and sacrifice of generations of Americans who have worked to preserve our independence.
Even though Independence Day is a day to reflect on our patriotism, our loyalty to our country, and our great fortune to be American citizens, it is also a day to think about all those who have guaranteed the opportunities our independence makes possible for us.
This year, it is especially important to do so, because Independence Day will be a day in which we can reaffirm our dedication to the ideals set by our Founders. Unfortunately, there are many reasons to think those ideals are not so alive and well as they once were.
In our congressional district, protesters are coming from outside the state with the express intention of disrupting military funerals. For the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty, there is no greater insult and no deeper way to inflict hurt than to interrupt their last respects. Those families don’t bury their loved ones as soldiers, they bury them as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and as grandchildren. But they are not getting the respect they deserve as they make their final peace with the Americans we have lost on the field of battle.
At John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis, veterans who received services at the dental offices may have been exposed to communicable diseases due to the improper cleaning of instruments. The breaking of procedures designed to keep patients safe, intentional or not, is an inexcusable lapse of service to 1,800 men and women who have served our country. There will be a full and complete accounting of this incident, and I am one of many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle furious at the VA.
Finally, in Washington, DC, the legislation which would fund the operations of the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq is being subjected to billions of dollars in unrelated spending. “Emergency” spending completely unrelated to the wars has muddied the debate over what should be an obvious, shared goal of both parties: supporting our men and women in uniform. There is no reason, and no excuse, for politicizing the service of Americans to their country.
Amid so many negative stories in the news about how we should be better honoring our soldiers, there is one overwhelming positive we should also consider: Independence Day is a day on which Americans in uniform, whether they are at home or deployed overseas, are thinking about their homeland, their families, and their fellow Americans. It’s only fitting that we take a little time out of our holiday to think about them.
Display the flag, participate in a parade, do something nice for the families in our communities who have loved ones serving away from home, and remember those who protect our freedoms in everything we do this Independence Day.”