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Joe D.
Democrat IN

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  • Honoring Indiana Servicemembers and All Americans Who Served in Vietnam

    by Senator Joe Donnelly

    Posted on 2015-12-10

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    DONNELLY. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the service and sacrifice of Indiana servicemembers and their families and of all Americans who served during the Vietnam war, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of that war.

    Here is picture from the Indiana Historical Society of some of the amazing Americans who served during that time. Tens of thousands of Hoosiers bravely answered the call when they volunteered or were drafted to serve in Vietnam in almost every single capacity you could think of.

    Bravely, and sadly, 1,243 Hoosier soldiers gave their lives in service to our country in Vietnam. In Vietnam, our vets endured 100- plus degree heat, monsoon rains, snake-infested rice paddy fields, staggering conditions, and incredibly dangerous situations.

    Our servicemembers would rather have been at home in Terre Haute, Richmond, Indy, Evansville or Fort Wayne, but they served because they loved our country and they answered when our Nation called them, and their answer was: Count on me.

    At the end of the war, many of our Vietnam vets didn't receive the welcome home or the recognition they deserved. Not all received huge hugs when they hit the tarmac back in America, but our Vietnam vets are heroes just like those who stormed the beaches in Normandy, trudged through frozen rivers in Korea, and went through the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. Our Vietnam vets deserve to be held-- and are held--in the same high regard as those who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Our Vietnam vets are part of the seamless fabric that has saved our country and made it such a blessed place.

    Today, our Vietnam vets get amazing receptions everywhere they go. In my home State of Indiana, a town in northern Indiana, LaPorte, IN, in LaPorte County, has their big parade every year on July 4. The streets are filled--5, 6, 7, 8 people deep for 2\1/2\ miles long--and every year the parade is led off by the Vietnam veterans of LaPorte County, and it happens all over our State. When the parade starts off, everyone gets out of their chairs and stands up--even those who have challenges and have difficulties--to applaud our men and women who were in Vietnam, and for 2\1/2\ miles they get an amazing standing applause the entire way. These vets are our parents, our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our grandparents, friends, neighbors, and the folks who are sitting next to us in church on Sunday.

    Our Vietnam veterans support and lead our communities as public servants, teachers, lawyers, nurses, business owners, factory workers, and bankers. Just about anything you can imagine--that is what our Vietnam vets are doing to make our country a greater place. They are a generation of veterans who have taught us about love of country and service, and they deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.

    Today, Indiana is home to nearly 150,000 Vietnam war veterans. We have a responsibility to provide them with the benefits and support they have earned and to show them the same commitment they demonstrated while they fought to protect us and our freedoms more than 4 decades ago.

    We must ensure our veterans have access to timely and quality care at local VAs across our State and country, and that this care is delivered in a way that meets their needs. Expanding access to health care for our Hoosier vets has been and will continue to be a constant top priority of mine.

    We recently broke ground in St. Joseph County, IN, on the new St. Joseph County Health Care Center. It will mean that many of our local vets in northern Indiana will be just a short ride away from the health services they have worked so hard to earn and receive.

    We must continue to expand options for care, for example, through the Veterans Choice Program, which is bipartisan legislation that is now law. Provisions from our bipartisan servicemember and veteran mental health care package were signed into law recently as part of the national defense bill.

    We are working every day to try to make sure our veterans have the chance to receive good physical health care and good mental health care and that we stand next to them and with them every step of the way. Our bipartisan Community Provider Readiness Recognition Act was included, and it helps connect Hoosier servicemembers and vets with local providers who can deal with the unique challenges that folks who were in our military face.

    The demand for care among our vets has never been greater and our obligation to them has never been greater. In recognition of their service and sacrifice, we must deliver on our promise to care for all veterans long after their last day in uniform.

    I have another picture here from the Indiana Historical Society. This is another group of our young soldiers. When they went off, as I said earlier, they didn't complain and didn't make excuses, and when our Nation called, as I said before, they said: Count on me.

    We must keep the promises we made to our vets. We must keep those promises for their entire lives. Our Vietnam vets and their families made incredible sacrifices. We can do a better job of [[Page S8593]] giving them the recognition and support they deserve. We must do so through words and action. In our everyday daily lives let us remember those who have sacrificed so much to defend our Nation and our freedom. Let us preserve their legacy and follow their example of service to others.

    When you see someone wearing a ball cap that says Vietnam vet, World War II vet, Korean vet, Iraq or Afghanistan vet, say thanks. My guess is they will say: Thank you; I was just doing my job. But they were doing so much more than just their job. They were protecting our Nation and making sure that our children and our children's children had a chance to grow up in this most blessed of all places.

    God bless every American and Hoosier veteran who served in Vietnam. God bless their families. God bless Indiana, and God bless America.

    I yield back.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.

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