May 28, 2018

Veterans are why U.S. remains safe, strong and secure nation | Beckley Register Herald

On Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the courageous service of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. It’s because of their commitment, bravery and valor that we remain a safe, strong and secure nation. Our strength is unmatched around the world – and will remain so – because of the brave men and women who volunteer to put their lives on the line for our freedoms. As Americans and as West Virginians, today we show our deepest gratitude and come together to show our lasting respects.

Throughout our state’s history, West Virginians have demonstrated selflessness and courage time and again in making tremendous sacrifices to defend our freedoms and to keep our homeland safe. With one of our country’s highest per capita rates of military service members and veterans, West Virginia is undoubtedly one of our nation’s most patriotic states. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I am determined to make sure West Virginia veterans have access to the resources and programs that they need. Last week, I worked hard to improve veterans programs, met with West Virginia veterans and honored a West Virginian and American hero.

I voted to pass the VA MSSION Act, which will improve VA’s community care program and make it easier for VA to hire quality health care professionals, and it expands the Caregiver Program to veterans of all eras. But that doesn’t mean I like everything in this bill. I tried to remove the AIR Act from the bill in order to protect West Virginia veteran care and prevent VA facilities in West Virginia from closing.

The Air Act would create a nine-member, Senate-confirmed Commission tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of VA facilities and identifying where investments should be made and where facilities should be consolidated, realigned, exchanged, outleased, replaced, sold or disposed. The last time there was an asset review in the early 2000s, the CARES Commission recommended closing the acute inpatient hospital beds and contracting for acute care in the community for the Beckley VA Medical Center.

Unfortunately, the AIR Act is still in the bill but as a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I will be calling for hearings and possibly holding nominations to prevent closures in West Virginia.

Last Wednesday, I had the honor in welcoming 23 courageous West Virginia veterans to Washington, D.C., with the Always Free Honor Flight, who visited the memorials made in their honor. This special honor flight is just one way for us to honor and share our deepest gratitude for their service. These veterans were from 50 to 90 years old and have traveled from all parts of our great state – from Buckhannon to Bluefield, Princeton to Beckley, and many places in between.

Two served in World War II, two served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, 14 served in the Vietnam War, two served in the Cold War, one served in the Gulf War and two served stateside. They truly inspire us all as we are reminded of their selfless service. It is because of their bravery that all Americans enjoy the greatest liberties and freedoms in the world and I was so honored to talk with them this week.

West Virginia is home to many remarkable veterans including World War II hero, a Medal of Honor recipient and a staunch advocate for Gold Star Families, Woody Williams. Last week the House of Representatives finally took my urging seriously and passed a resolution to rename the Huntington VA in his honor. For almost 100 years Woody has dedicated his life to public service, bravely served our country and has sacrificed much for our country and our beloved home of West Virginia. Nobody is more deserving of this honor.

For decades, Memorial Day has offered us all the opportunity to unite and commemorate those military personnel who have fallen and those who proudly stand in uniform today to fight on behalf of the American people.

From the bottom of my heart, I extend my deepest gratitude and respect to the men and women who gave their all to keep our nation the greatest on earth. I know I speak for all West Virginians and Americans when I say thank you to our veterans and service members, as well as their families, today and every day for their patriotism and sacrifice. May God bless you, the great state of West Virginia, and the United States of America.

By:  Senator Joe Manchin