November 07, 2011

A Day To Honor Our Heroes

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Dakota Meyer was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courageous actions in Afghanistan, which included enduring enemy fire to rescue fellow soldiers.  When asked whether he realized his actions were extraordinary, Sgt. Meyer said, "No, I don't.  It would have been extraordinary if I'd brought them out alive.  That would have been extraordinary." 

Sgt. Meyer's comments exemplify many American service members' discomfort with being recognized as the heroes they are.  I am not sure that they, or the American public, fully realize that we owe our freedom to their valor, courage and selflessness.  Their service and the sacrifice of their families who await their safe return are critical to the defense of Americans at home and abroad.  A grateful nation honors them and readies to welcome them home.

Members of Idaho National Guard's 116 th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team are among those returning from deployment to Iraq.  As we celebrate their homecoming, we should be mindful of the challenges they may face upon their return. 

Those who have not faced combat firsthand cannot fully grasp the life-altering experience service members endure in war.  Sometimes, these physical and emotional scars create challenges with readjusting to civilian life and endure long after the "welcome home" signs have come down and the parades have ended.  We can honor our veterans' dedication and contributions to the nation by assisting them and their families with rehabilitation from wounds and reintegration into civilian life.   Each returning veteran has unique needs, and our nation and communities should step up to meet the challenge of assisting each one.

Idaho is blessed with a number of organizations and caring individuals who devote countless hours to welcoming veterans home and helping them transition.  Each November, when awarding "The Spirit of Freedom:  Idaho Veterans Service Award," I am inspired by the number of veterans helping their fellow veterans.  For example, some overcome considerable physical challenges to greet returning servicemen and servicewomen no matter the time and devote hours to assisting veterans with accessing needed services, supporting military families, providing fellowship and honoring fallen veterans. 

The unrelenting selflessness of veterans is an example for all of us.  Veterans, who fought for our country and their fellow service members, are continuing to fight for each other at home. 

This Veterans Day let us honor and recognize the contributions of veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.  You and your families are in our hearts.  America's veterans deserve a hero's welcome.  Welcome home, heroes. 

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