Joni Ernst

Remarks at CPAC 2015 - Feb. 26, 2015

Joni Ernst
February 26, 2015— Washington, D.C.
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Thank you, thank you so much. Thanks all of you for allowing me to join you here today. Your voices and your actions are so important to the fight to get our great nation back on track. Thank you for all that you do.

For the next few minutes, I am honored to have the opportunity to discuss a topic that as many of you know is very near and dear to my heart – celebrating the service and recognizing the sacrifices of America's military veterans.

I wanted to take a moment to honor those men and women who currently or have in the past worn our nation's uniform. Those who have defended the very ideals, values and freedoms that make this the greatest nation in the history of mankind.

For more than 20 years, I've had that great privilege of serving my state and my country while working alongside some our finest soldiers. My husband, Gayle, has been a tremendous support system through the years. He is a retired command sergeant major and Army Ranger, and has humbly served our country.

Today I serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard and I've been privileged to have commanded at many levels, from company to battalion. From 2003 to 2004, I served as a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While my unit was tasked with running convoys throughout Kuwait and southern Iraq, the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that we served alongside while deployed all came from different corners America and from different backgrounds.

But what was so much more important than any differences was the common belief in the greatness of America and their willingness to make tremendous sacrifices to defend her. And so they came forward. They raised their right hand and they pledged to defend our freedoms and our very way of life.

Because of the fearless men and women like these, veterans from earlier generations to those who will step forward and answer duty's call in the months and the years ahead, I will always remain optimistic about the bright future for America.

In the United States Senate, I have the honor of serving on the Armed Services Committee. We are already working on a wide range of issues, including threats from ISIS, al Qaeda and others who are being radicalized by them. Congress must hold President Obama accountable to ensure that he and his administration finally develop a cohesive and strong strategy to confront these and the many other threats that we face.

We also must do all we can to stand up here at home to ensure that our veterans receive the quality up care they were promised and deserve.

A month ago, I was honored to give the Republican address following the State of the Union. I had an extra gallery ticket at so I called my friend Owen, an Iowan who lives in this area. Owen and I attended Iowa State University together many years ago and now Owen is an active duty member of the United States Army. When I call them he said, "Joni, I'd love to go but on that day I'm being fitted for my new leg."

Folks, Owen lives here, now at least temporarily, at Walter Reed Medical Center. During Owen's last deployment to Afghanistan, he and his team were caught in a firefight and he was shot multiple times, which resulted in the loss of his leg and the sight in his left eye.

I spent a morning with Owen at Walter Reed and as he went through his routine appointments and his physical therapy with his new prosthetic leg, I was honored to be there with him. There are maybe a dozen other service members present. They were missing arms, their legs or a combination. They were in wheelchairs or on prosthetics. They were using canes and they were using crutches. And as I looked around, I didn't see America's broken soldiers. I saw America's tenacious survivors.

That day, that day with Owen, reinforced to me that in the end we will not be judged by what's on the outside – our physical perfection and strength – but by what's on the inside – our inner perfection and strength. That strength which enables us to stand up for what is right and to stand against what is wrong.

These men and women – Owen, his teammates, our other wonderful veterans – they have all demonstrated their inner strength and courage. And as we gather together over the next few days to celebrate our values, our beliefs and our great freedom, I encourage all of you to take a moment to reach out and thank a veterans and their family, because they help to protect those rights.

In fact at this time, if you are able, I would like to ask all of our military men and women to please rise and allow us to show our deep gratitude and appreciation. [clapping and thanking the military members of the audience]

Thanks to each of you from a forever, forever grateful nation.

Thank you all for having me here today and may God bless you. May God bless our wonderful service men and women, and God bless the great United States of America. Thank you.

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