For more than 23 years, I had the honor of serving alongside of some of the bravest mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons in the military. In 2003, my battalion was deployed overseas. We ran convoys through Kuwait and southern Iraq and experienced the same challenges and successes as one. We returned home with the exact number of soldiers we left with. The hard part was over, or so we thought.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the difficulties begin for many women and men when they returned home from war and too often the invisible wounds of war go unnoticed. Our veterans have selflessly sacrificed in defense of our freedoms and our way of life. The next step is ensuring they’re prepared to transition back to civilian life when their service is over. September marked Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs latest state data, in 2014 Iowa lost 75 veterans to suicide. The data also found suicide rates were high in rural areas. One life lost is too many.
Our veterans fought tirelessly for us and now it's our turn to stand up for these American heroes. Just last month, the White House announced it would be implementing an effort I led with Democrat Mazie Hirono to expand veterans access to telemedicine across state lines. This will allow veterans to access care either from the comfort of or closer to their own homes. This will improve access to quality and timely care for the more than 200,000 veterans in Iowa, particularly those who are disabled or reside in rural communities. We must continue to create opportunities for veterans to receive the best care out there including potentially life-saving mental health care. While progress has been made, we can't stop here. We must keep fighting to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve. To read more about my efforts on behalf of our veterans or for more information on resources, please visit my website at ernst.senate.gov. Thank you.