Clay Hunt Sav Actby Senator Daniel Sullivan
Posted on 2015-02-02
SULLIVAN. Mr. President, last night tens of millions of Americans
watched the Super Bowl, a game that has become a national tradition,
something of an American holiday--and for good reason. Competition,
grit, and hard work can bring out the best in all of us. But not all
Americans were watching.
Last night, just like every other night of the year, there were young American men and women, humbly and without complaint, shouldering the burden of protecting their follow citizens from harm. Some were doing this overseas, in places both familiar and unfamiliar to us. Others were here in America doing the hard training that is necessary to hone their warrior skills to protect us.
I had the privilege of being with thousands of these fine young Americans last night at the Army's National Training Center, the NTC, at Fort Irwin, CA. Just as in the Super Bowl, they were on the field engaged in fierce competition, force-on-force operations, as part of some of the best, most challenging military training anywhere in the world.
But unlike the Super Bowl, there were no winners or losers last night--just winners. Among the participants at NTC are 3,000 soldiers from a battle-hardened Army Stryker brigade based in Fairbanks, AK, along with hundreds of paratroopers from other military bases across Alaska. I felt immense pride in watching them train last night.
These young men and women, volunteers all, selflessly stand ready to fight and give their lives for our great country. With all due respect to my distinguished colleagues from New England who are deservedly celebrating today, it is very important to keep in mind that America's true patriots were on the field last night in places such as Fort Irwin, Baghdad, and Kabul.
We have an important opportunity to honor their service tomorrow as we prepare to vote on a bipartisan bill to make sure the patriots in our military have the resources and care that can help them fight the despair of suicide. Tomorrow we vote on the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which I was proud to cosponsor and help pass out of the Veteran's Affairs Committee.
This bill is named for a true American hero, a decorated Marine who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and who struggled with despair and ultimately took his own life. This bill will start to bring greater awareness and services to the devastation that too many of our finest fall sway to. I encourage all of my distinguished colleagues to vote for this bill tomorrow so we can get it on the President's desk for his signature as soon as possible.
A vote tomorrow will be a vote for Clay Hunt, for his courageous family, and for all the families and their loved ones who have lost someone to the national tragedy of suicide.
This will be a vote for my State, Alaska, which proudly boasts the highest number of veterans per capita in the United States but, sadly, has the highest rates of suicide in our country. This is also a personal vote for me. It is a story I do not share often or lightly. As an officer in the Marine Corps, both on Active Duty and in the Reserve, I have personally witnessed the struggles, at times tragic, that some of our service men and women undergo.
The suicide of a young Alaskan marine under my command still haunts me. You always wonder: Could I have done more? With the proper awareness and resources this marine might be alive today. That is why we need legislation such as the Clay Hunt bill. When I cast my vote tomorrow, it will be a vote for all of our veterans but particularly for the families who have suffered the unspeakable pain of suicide.
This is a good bill. It is a good start. As my distinguished colleague from Connecticut calls it, this bill is a downpayment on our debt to our veterans. It will not solve all the problems they face, including rates of suicide among veterans that are far too high in this country. But it is an important beginning. I ask my colleagues to vote for this bill tomorrow.
I yield the floor.