Sen. Johnny Isakson: Military appreciation is a year-round endeavor

In 1999, my good friend U.S. Senator John McCain introduced legislation to designate the month of May as National Military Appreciation Month. Twenty years later, we continue to use this month-long opportunity to recognize and honor the service of more than 23 million current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

For many, this may mean thanking a family member, a friend or a neighbor for the time they spent away from loved ones defending this great country.

For me, I think about my father-in-law who flew reconnaissance in World War II in the Pacific theater, and my brother-in-law Rocky Davidson, who flew Navy reconnaissance planes in Vietnam, and also about my friends who made the ultimate sacrifice.

My own time in the Georgia Air National Guard taught me just how important it is that our service members overseas have the full support of the U.S. government, including the equipment and resources necessary to be successful both during combat and when they return home. Throughout my 20 years of service in Congress, I have been committed to fulfilling this mission.

As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have the unique opportunity to work on legislation that directly benefits our military. I have been a strong advocate of raising pay for our troops, increasing the basic housing allowances and making improvements to the retirement benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves. These types of initiatives are intended to improve readiness and quality of life for our all-volunteer force. Most importantly, the number one way that we in Congress can show our appreciation for our military is through full funding and support for their missions.

During a recent trip to Iraq, while I talked with U.S. service members from Georgia and other states about their experiences, I was struck by the bravery and dedication of these men and women in uniform.

We live in a world of unknown and dangerous threats, and we depend upon our Armed Forces who voluntarily answer the call to serve and defend our nation against all enemies. When they join the most elite force on this planet, they know they will spend countless months away from their families and even come face-to-face to with evil forces that wish to do us harm.

Just as these troops have dedicated their lives to serving our country, we must be equally dedicated to ensuring that they are taken care of when they return. Now in my fifth year as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am focused on guaranteeing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rises to the challenge of implementing significant reforms to improve veterans’ health care and ensure we are always serving the best interests of our veterans.

Today, the VA is fundamentally changing the service they deliver for the better. Legislation I authored, developed and passed with a bipartisan approach, such as the VA MISSION Act, is now being implemented so our veterans can receive efficient, timely and quality care. We owe our veterans a department that is responsive to them and their individual needs, and I will continue working to make sure that happens.

I am proud of the great strides we have made in Congress to help our service members and veterans, but legislation is not the only thing we can do to support and honor their service. During National Military Appreciation Month – and year-round – there are countless ways to show support and appreciation for our service members.

I encourage every American to take some time this month to extend a hand to service members and veterans in their local community and remind them how grateful we are for their service. Whether it’s welcoming home troops at the airport, assembling care packages for service members deployed overseas or simply saying thank you and offering encouragement to our veterans, our brave men and women who have served in uniform deserve our utmost gratitude.

I’m honored to represent the great state of Georgia and to live in the greatest country on the face of this Earth, and I thank our service members, past, future and present, for their service and sacrifice to keep our country safe and free.

God bless our soldiers, and God bless the United States of America.

###

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in the 116th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as nearly 700,000 veterans.