Thoughts on the eve of Veterans Day

Published 11:26 pm Friday, November 8, 2013

On the eve of Veterans Day, I often reflect on the individuals who have kept our nation strong and free. Over the course of a year, I meet and hear of many who commit their lives’ work to the security of our country. This year, I reflect on five of those stories I’ve encountered.

To the veteran who served in Korea: You told me you still keep the uniform you wore in the back of your closet. Occasionally, you dust it off and remember. You can still see the faces of the men left behind. How different things seem today. Being a veteran often means fighting red tape and waiting in lines at the Veterans Administration clinic. You used to think your nation took care of its veterans.

We are thankful for you. Our nation called, and you answered. Our veterans are remarkable for not seeking any special attention for what they have contributed to this country. Just as you have fought for America, I will fight for you.

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To the service member who served in Iraq and Afghanistan: Your first child was born just days after the towers fell. Seven years later, you waved goodbye to two toddlers and a grade-schooler. It was your third tour, but your country had asked again. Now, you hear that the President wants to reduce pay raises for service members.

The success of our nation depends on the character of individuals like you. To support you is my priority. I refuse to place the burden of our fiscal challenges on the backs of our service members.

To the defense civilian: Your stomach dropped when you first learned that you’d have a 20-percent pay reduction for almost three months this summer. Next came a government shutdown and a missed paycheck. What little savings you’d been able to keep this year was reduced to nearly nothing.

You are a patriot who has dedicated your life to supporting our military. You might not wear a uniform, but you have no less devotion to excellence in your work for our nation. Since voting against sequestration in 2011, I have not stopped fighting to reverse these devastating cuts and to end the destructive furlough of our Defense Department civilians.

To the career military officer: You’ve made service to the military your life. As others climb the corporate ladder, you pack your family up every three years and move across country.

You’ve always reminded yourself of the retirement benefits that you have been promised — it’s one way you can give back to your family after all these years of sacrifice. Now you hear the President wants sweeping changes to the military retirement system.

Your sacrifice, and your family’s, is noticed. You made a promise to defend our nation, and our nation needs to keep the promises it made to you. I have fought these changes tirelessly and will continue to do so. Our service members cannot and should not bear an unfair amount of our fiscal burden.

To the student considering service in our military: Since the time you held your grandpa’s Purple Heart, it became your dream to join the military. You can’t wait to serve this nation, but lately, you’ve heard the military is being forced to cut troops. You wonder if they even need you now.

Our country does need you. Your commitment to our nation will make us better. There will be both failures and triumphs, but there will always be those who are grateful for you.

This Veterans Day, I want to say thank you to all who commit their lives to our nation. You’ve fought and given your all for us. There are still those of us who are proud to fight for you.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at