It has been said that this nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. Those brave men and women, our noble veterans, deserve our respect and support on all levels and at all times.
I am the son of two Veterans Administration professionals and grew up on VA Grounds in the states of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. I was deeply impacted when I saw first-hand the wounded and returning veterans. This exposure instilled in me that we must honor them with the respect and the dignity they earned in defense of our freedoms. It is paramount that America keeps its promise to our 22 million veterans, our 2 million service members, and the families of veterans who go through the journey of defending freedom alongside them.
During my time in the United States Senate, I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years, where I worked to transition our military from a Cold War force to a military prepared to deal with the threats of the 21st Century. Our men and women in uniform risked their lives against those who wish to destroy America because our enemies hate everything we are – a land of freedom, a land of prosperity, and a land of equality.
Veterans have the utmost respect for current military men and women who, as they did, perform the ultimate sacrifice to keep America safe from our enemies. They understand the importance of providing for the common defense. That is why it is deeply frustrating that the president’s budget proposes making defense cuts of $1 trillion. These cuts will eliminate more than 80,000 members of the military and will leave us with the smallest military force since 1940, a time when we were grossly unprepared for World War II. These cuts will leave us with the smallest navy since 1915, a time when we were unprepared for World War I. And these cuts will leave us with the smallest Air Force since it became a separate military branch in 1947.
President Obama’s latest assault on the military budget is not an isolated event but the result of his lead from behind strategy that tosses aside traditional allies like Great Britain and Israel as well as brave new friends like Poland and the Czech Republic, while failing miserably to negotiate with fanatic pariah states like Iran and North Korea. All of this is played out against a backdrop of apologizing, bowing and delivering speeches, which contain content at war with history. In fact as the clock ticks toward a nuclear Iran, President Obama is whispering away our national security to its ally Russia.
It is appalling that the president proposes tripling military and retiree healthcare payments, while at the same time dramatically expanding healthcare and Medicaid entitlements through ObamaCare and its affront to freedom. President Obama is burdening our military families who have sacrificed so much this past decade in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Unfortunately, disrespecting veterans has crept into the Veterans Administration as well. In May 2011, the director of Houston National Cemetery required Pastor Scott Rainey to submit for approval his prayer before praying at a Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery. After reviewing Pastor Rainey’s prayer, the director informed him that, in order to pray, he would need to remove religious references from his prayer, including praying in Jesus‘ name. Upon further review, it was discovered that additional First Amendment violations at the Houston National Cemetery violated. This included prohibiting volunteers with the National Memorial Ladies from saying “God bless you” to families; prohibiting family members from having the burial ritual with references to God they desired; and closing the cemetery chapel and using it as a storage facility. It is unacceptable to instill left wing ideology at the expense of a family who wishes to grieve their loss in their own religious way.
We cannot continue to allow treatment of our veterans to erode. We must ensure that the military health care system adequately supports military operations and deployments. We must never compromise on the quality of health care for service members, retirees, and their families. We must honor the obligations to those now serving, allowing them to either retain programs or transition to better options. We must provide services that offer flexibility to volunteers who wish to move between active and reserve service and civilian employment, ensuring portability of care for members and their families.
Veterans are America’s finest patriots, and they will tell you there is no better way to honor their sacrifice than to provide for current and future military men and women. We should offer no apologies for our country or the U.S. military. We cannot cut defense funding, and we cannot put our soldiers in harm’s way without a plan and path for victory. They are America’s finest, and their dedication and sacrifice will defend our country for years to come.
Rick Santorum, a former representative and senator from Pennsylvania, ran as a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He is spearheading Patriot Voices, a new grassroots and online community, which will mobilize one million conservatives committed to promoting faith, family, freedom, and opportunity.