This year we saw the welcome return of over 500 South Dakota National Guardsmen who had deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. These men and women join the more than 72,000 veterans that call South Dakota home. Residents in communities across the state turned out to show their support in welcome home parades and ceremonies.
This Veterans Day, communities will again gather together to honor those who have served in our country’s military. As we celebrate this holiday, we not only honor the recently returned National Guard veterans but all those who have worn our nation’s uniform and sacrificed so much in service to our country.
With the recent passing of Senator McGovern, we’re reminded again of the valor of the Greatest Generation. As a young pilot, George flew 35 B-24 Liberator missions over Europe. When his plane was struck by enemy fire, he adeptly crash-landed it, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. While his actions were certainly heroic they were not unique. There were countless men and women like him that bravely answered the call to serve, placing themselves into harm’s way and enduring unimaginable hardships. More World War II veterans die every day, but their contributions to our country’s history will never be forgotten.
A common characteristic among veterans across the generations is humility. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thanked a veteran for their service and their response has been, “I’m no hero; I was just doing my job.” When they make these humble remarks, these men and women aren’t acknowledging that their work is something that in the past decade only one half of 1 percent of the population was willing to do. They aren’t recognizing that their job pulls them away from their families and puts them in dangerous situations, all so that we may live safely in America and the freedoms we hold dear may be preserved. If there was ever reason to be a little boastful, this would be the time.
With this modest attitude, our veterans may not ask for extra benefits, attention, or praise, but they are deserving of all that and more. I have used my role in the Senate to be a champion for veterans’ issues, securing strong funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and working to make sure we honor the promises made to our service members and stand by them when they take off our nation’s uniform. I will continue this effort and hope you will join me in honoring our nation’s veterans, not just on Veterans’ Day but every day.