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I love a parade.  And I really love a Veterans Day parade because it’s not just a joyous celebration of America’s freedom – it’s also a grateful salute to the brave men and women of who have helped to preserve that freedom.

With every snap of a flag, every blast of a bugle or crack of a drum during a Veterans Day parade, I am reminded that the freedom we are celebrating has been secured and preserved by the courage and sacrifice of American patriots. And I am filled with pride in every veteran in the parade.

This is the 10th consecutive year we have observed Veterans Day with our country at war.  And that fact should be a solemn reminder for everyone of our nation’s obligation to the men and women who have sacrificed and suffered for the cause of America’s security.

Not one of these courageous Americans should have to come home from war and face another fight – a fight for the benefits, services and care they have earned as veterans. In this long war, one of the longest in our country’s history, they have served us well.  We must do the same for them.

The men and women of our country go to war with a noble pride, a raw courage, and a firm conviction that the power of America’s values is at least as great as the power of America’s weapons. It has been that way for every generation of Americans that has been willing to step into the line of fire for their fellow countrymen for the last 237 years, from Concord to Calais to Khe Sanh to Kabul.

But rarely is it easy for these heroes to come home from war – even in victory, as they always do.  For the warrior, the journey home is long and, for too many, never completely over. Fortunately, America has long been committed to their care. And as a member of the United States Senate, representing a great state that is home to 167,200 veterans, I will work every day to make sure we keep that commitment to our veterans – and not just with words, but with actions.

As John F. Kennedy reminded us, in expressing our gratitude to our veterans, “we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

I’ve met with countless veterans from West Virginia, and I’ve taken their concerns and acted on them. That’s why I’ve put so much time and energy into organizing the bipartisan Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus and promoting its signature program – “I Hire Veterans” – to private businesses to help reduce the jobless rate among veterans. That’s why I’ve vigorously supported the Vow to Hire Heroes Act that provides tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed and disabled veterans and expands educational and vocational training benefits for vets. That’s why my office works directly with veterans organizations throughout West Virginia to identify local needs and connect vets with companies that are hiring.

We’ve got a new generation of veterans coming home to an economy that is still regaining its strength, and helping veterans get back to work is critical.  More than 1 million active duty personnel will join the ranks of America’s 23 million veterans over the next five years. The jobless rate for this generation of veterans who have served in the military since 9/11 is 9.7 percent, well above the national average of 7.8 percent.  That is just unacceptable. We’ve got more to do to provide job opportunities to those who so selflessly answered our country’s call.  But we won’t let them down.

I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact veterans can have on our economy.  Leadership, teamwork, commitment and trust – these are the hallmark qualities of our military heroes. And these are the skills every American business – big or small – can use today.
Like every generation of American warriors, today’s young veterans make great hires. Maturity, loyalty, crisis management skills?  They’ve got it in spades. So if you’re an employer and if you really want to celebrate Veterans Day this year, move these veterans’ resumes to the top of the pile. If you want to help a vet, hire a vet.

Do it now, before the parade begins.  It’s a great way to keep faith with those who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. It’s a great way to stand with the men and women who have kept us safe and free. It’s a great way to welcome our warriors home again – not just with words, but with action.

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