Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Guest Blogger Series: Congressman Silvestre Reyes “Honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice”

By: Congressman Silvestre Reyes

As Americans across the country enjoy the Memorial Day weekend at picnics, barbeques, and other festivities, we must not forget the true meaning and purpose of this day – to honor and remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. This Memorial Day, I urge all Americans to take a moment to pause and remember those who have died in the cause of freedom and to pray for our troops who continue to fight to keep us safe.

As an Army combat veteran, I am deeply familiar with the hardships that soldiers and their families endure during difficult times like these, and I extend my heartfelt gratitude to them and their families for their service and sacrifice.

In 2000, the Congress established the White House Commission on Remembrance, an independent, non-partisan agency that encourages Americans to honor the sacrifices of fallen soldiers and their families. The Commission urges all Americans to unite in the National Moment of Remembrance by pausing for a moment of reflection this Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time. During this Moment, Amtrak trains will sound their whistles, and Major League Baseball fans and millions of other Americans will be joined in silence.

Thousands of American troops will not have the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones this Memorial Day. As Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a senior Member of the Armed Services Committee, I have had the privilege of meeting with our brave men and women stationed throughout the world. Although they are often serving in very dangerous areas and risking their lives every day, they never fail to impress me with their level of professionalism and the unwavering dedication to their mission. We are all deeply indebted to them.

Of course, we must not only honor our soldiers, veterans, and their families with words, but also with meaningful actions to ensure their needs are met both during their service and afterwards. The U.S. Congress has demonstrated its commitment to our nation=s soldiers and veterans by passing legislation to support pay increases for active duty troops, the largest funding increases in history for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a 21st Century GI Bill, and other initiatives. More than 475,000 veterans have taken advantage of the new GI benefits since the law took effect. In addition, all children of service members who have died on active duty since September 11, 2001 are eligible for the full education benefit.

The increases in funding for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will improve medical care for our returning soldiers, including screening and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). These additional funds will also provide better care, more doctors, and shorter wait times for medical appointments for the 5.8 million veterans who use the VA health care system.

Memorial Day honors the bravery, dedication and courage of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. As you celebrate with family and friends, I hope you take a moment to remember those who have died to preserve our freedoms and pray for those who continue to make us proud.

Congressman Silvestre Reyes serves as the influential Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the first Hispanic American in U.S. history to lead the committee.  The committee drafts the laws that govern, fund, and oversee the 16 agencies that comprise the U.S. Intelligence Community, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and other executive branch departments and agencies.

Congressman Reyes is also a senior Member of the House Armed Services Committee, the primary committee responsible for the funding and oversight of the Department of Defense (DOD).  The committee plays a central role in determining funding levels for Fort Bliss.

Reyes is an Army combat veteran.  He served in the Army from 1966 – 1968, and fought in the Vietnam War as a helicopter crew chief in the 282nd Combat Assault Helicopter Company known as “the Blackcats.”  Following his service in Vietnam, he joined the United States Border Patrol as an agent in 1969.  In 1984, Reyes was promoted to Sector Chief, becoming the first Hispanic Sector Chief in Border Patrol history.