Posted on November 9, 2007
Tennessee is the Volunteer state. From the battle of King’s Mountain in the Revolutionary War, through the Mexican War, the Civil War, the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and in Iraq and Afghanistan – Tennesseans have volunteered. On November 11th we celebrate these brave men and women who have served our nation with distinction. We commend the more than 10,000 Tennessee military men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we especially thank the more than 500 wounded warrior Tennesseans who have returned from those conflicts and are working to overcome injuries. This summer Senator Corker and I visited with soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait and at a military hospital in Germany, and met with top American and Iraqi leaders. We met with troops in and around Baghdad, including the Green Zone, Camp Victory and the U.S. Combat Outpost near Taji. I was struck by the courage, dedication and high morale of every soldier I met there and continue to be impressed with General David Petraeus, the former commander of the 101st Airborne Division, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker and with what they are accomplishing on the ground in Iraq. There are clear successes in some provinces, with coalition forces working with Iraqis – running out Al Qaeda and providing security for Iraqis to live their lives. Though there are successes, there is still a long and hard road ahead. I continue to believe it is important for Congress and the president to speak with one voice in a bipartisan manner on a new direction in Iraq. A united mission to finish the job honorably in Iraq and bring our troops home as quickly as possible is the best way to honor their sacrifices. This fall, I was reminded of the grand tradition of integrity, strength and valor our men and women today are following when I watched Ken Burn’s documentary detailing the immense sacrifices of our World War II veterans. One of the American heroes he included in his film The War was my friend, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. Senator Inouye served with the 442nd Division, which fought bravely in Europe during World War II. He is a Japanese American and, as the film reminds us, Japanese Americans were quarantined, reviled and discriminated against. But there he was, risking life and limb in combat, and he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. When Senator Inouye lost an arm in battle, he ended up in the same hospital in Italy that the Senate’s former Majority Leader Bob Dole was in. They were wounded about the same time, and they served together in the Senate for many years. The film also detailed the tremendous bravery of the Flying Tigers air unit. Another one of my colleagues, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, was a member of that unit and flew the first plane to land in Beijing after World War II ended. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to serve with these American heroes, and Veterans Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on their sacrifices. It’s a day to be grateful for our military men and women serving today and for our veterans who served before them – going across the ocean to fight so we could be safe here at home. It’s a day to be thankful that many of them have come back, and to pray for the families of the men and women we have be lost. On Veterans Day and everyday, our nation thanks our troops who are still fighting to keep us safe and free.