While the name of this annual remembrance has changed over the years, its intent has not. Veterans Day gives every American an opportunity to thank the servicemembers who have answered our nation's call to duty. �
This Veterans Day is particularly poignant as tens of thousands of men and women are serving overseas in defense of freedom. As the parents of a soldier, Barbara and I know the incredible burden they and their families have shouldered to defend liberty abroad.�
Over 73,000 South Dakotans have served in our nation's military, and since last Veterans Day, South Dakota has found new ways to honor our veterans. In September, I was proud to attend the dedication of the South Dakota Vietnam War Memorial in Pierre. Long overdue, the memorial honors the 28,000 South Dakotans who served during the Vietnam War, and pays special tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. �
It is my hope that the memorial will go a long way toward healing the emotional wounds suffered by Vietnam veterans who were not always welcomed home with open arms.�
We also pay tribute to the heroic service of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery unit based in Yankton.�Every South Dakota National Guard member has performed courageously in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the 147th paid a steep price for defending freedom abroad.� Four members were killed while serving in Iraq and two others were seriously wounded.�Even after the tragic loss of their comrades, the 147th completed their mission and returned home to a grateful nation in late September.�
As we commemorate this Veterans Day, I believe Congress must redouble our efforts to provide for our men and women in uniform. Far too often, those who fought for our freedom abroad are forced to fight for their benefits when they return home.� One of the best ways to honor those who have served our nation is for Congress to take specific steps to restore promises to military retirees and veterans, while also working to strengthen the quality of life for our active duty men and women.
I am humbled by the dedication and patriotism of our nation's veterans, and on behalf of all South Dakotans, I offer my gratitude to those who have worn the uniform.� Most importantly, we should not limit ourselves to paying tribute to our veterans on a single day each year.� Rather we should take every opportunity to thank those who selflessly defended our nation.