Hi, I’m Joni Ernst and I have the honor of serving the great state of Iowa in the United States Senate.
It’s a long way from Red Oak, Iowa to Washington, D.C., but often I think back to even more distant places I’ve traveled to like Kuwait and Iraq, where I served as a company commander, leading 150 Iowa Army National Guardsmen during Operation Iraqi Freedom 13 years ago. I also often think of the nearly 4,500 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our nation during the Iraq War.
I have been so fortunate that my 23 years of service in the military has introduced me to some of the most patriotic and selfless Americans who woke up each day willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom.
Unfortunately, all too often folks hear in the media talking about a divided America. But this Memorial Day, I implore you to push past the 30 second sound bites and instead join me in honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation since its founding in 1776.
While Memorial Day is a day to honor our fallen heroes, I would also like to say a few words about our veterans whose sacrifices must never be forgotten.
From those who responded after the shocking attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, to those sent around the globe after the tragic events of September 11th 2001, we honor them.
This Congress recognizes the service and sacrifice that veterans like the Women Airforce Service Pilots, also known as WASP, made during the 1940s.
You see, during World War II, these bold, revolutionary women flew non-combat service missions for the Army Airforce to free up their male counterparts for combat duty overseas.
The WASP willingly put their lives on the line for this country during a time of war. This work wasn’t easy and in fact, 38 WASP died in service to our great nation, such as Beverly Moses, who was born in Des Moines; and Gleanna Roberts who grew up near Iowa City.
These women served our nation with great honor – and put their lives on the line.
You and I know that their sacrifice and love for this nation deserves to be celebrated, and always remembered. Unfortunately, these pioneers of aviation have long struggled to gain the recognition and honor they earned.
With this in mind, I helped introduce bipartisan legislation along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswomen Martha McSally and Susan Davis to ensure the WASP ashes could be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery. A seemingly simple thing, that means so much.
This Congress passed this legislation honoring these historic women and it is now law.
Now, this Congress is getting to work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation includes measures to make sure our men and women have access to the top equipment and training they need on the battlefield. The NDAA includes many critical provisions to help keep our military members safe so they do return home to their families.
We’ve already gotten to work on the NDAA, and later this summer, the Senate will consider the Defense Appropriations Act. These measures will provide some level of certainty to our brave service members now serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other places around the world.
As Memorial Day approaches, let us pause and remember all of the men and women who have given their lives so we can be free.
Let’s pause and honor the families of the fallen who have also given so much.
On Memorial Day—and every day—let us give thanks for these outstanding heroes. They serve as a testimony to the character of America.
May God always bless you, our servicemen and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, the great state of Iowa, and these wonderful United States of America.