November 10, 2005
Contact: Jeff Schrade (202)224-9093

(Washington, DC) U.S. Senator Larry Craig took to the floor of the U.S. Senate today, the day before Veterans Day, to priase veterans and members of the 116th Cavalry Brigrade, which is headquarted in his home state of Idaho. 

To listen to his comments, click on: Sen. Larry Craig's statement



The text of his prepared remarks are below:


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the men and women of the Idaho National Guard 116th Brigade Combat Team for their service in Iraq. For the last 18 months, these brave men and women have made a tremendous sacrifice to be away from their families and friends to defend our nation, and work to build a stable and free Iraq. And for that, I am extremely grateful to all of them.

It is important to remember that the soldiers of the National Guard are civilians first, and soldiers second. They are our doctors, businessmen, plumbers, and farmers; yet they have all answered their country's call to action during this time of need. The skills that these civilian soldiers bring to the table have proven to be invaluable as our soldiers work side-by-side with the Iraqi people to restore critical infrastructure, establish a thriving economy, and promote a free and prosperous system of government.

Mr. President, earlier this year I went to Iraq, fulfilling a promise I had made to the members of the 116th to see them on the ground. What I found was a very proud and enthusiastic group of civilian soldiers, who stood with their active-duty counterparts, and performed their duties in a courageous and skillful manner. Their civilian skills not only were essential to provide for the security of the Iraqi people, but they also proved to be essential in the ongoing reconstruction efforts. I was humbled to have the opportunity to meet with these fine men and women on the battle field of Iraq and express the gratitude of the people of Idaho, and the nation, for their efforts.

I was also enormously pleased with the positive feedback I received from local Iraqi government officials, regarding the work and progress that the soldiers of the 116th have worked so hard to accomplish since their deployment. These soldiers faced a very difficult and dangerous task of maintaining peace and stability in some very hostile environments, yet they continued their mission with determination.

The members of the 116th have spent the last 12 months in the provinces of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. Their mission was to provide for the security of the Iraqi people against insurgent and terrorist attacks, establishment of self-reliant government institutions, and reconstruction of basic infrastructure. Their two overriding missions were overseeing the successful national elections in January, and the national referendum vote on October 15. Both of these missions were tremendous successes and a giant step forward towards peace for the Iraqi people.

The 116th represents the largest deployment that my State of Idaho has ever seen, and also represents the highest per capita percentage deployment of National Guard soldiers in the country. The 116th has also seen the highest re-enlistment rate in the Iraqi theater.

Mr. President, I believe that all of my colleagues would share in the gratitude and pride I have for these soldiers who have sacrificed so much to ensure the security of our nation. Many of the members of the 116th Brigade Combat Team will soon be returning back home to their families and friends, and their civilian lives. However, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude for their service to our great nation, and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this important mission.