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Ron Kind: Iraq veterans made us proud

December 18, 2011
In The News


La Crosse Tribune 
By Ron Kind 
This past week, we officially declared an end to the mission in Iraq. Our last combat troops will be home by Dec. 31.
I congratulate President Barack Obama and his administration for keeping their promise and achieving this important goal.
After eight years of combat, I don’t know what more our troops could do to enhance the security of Iraq. At this point, it’s up to the Iraqi people to decide what future they want for themselves and for their children. We cannot do that for them. It’s time for us to stop rebuilding Iraq and start rebuilding our own nation.
Our mission in Iraq came at a steep price in both lives and treasure. Our own state of Wisconsin contributed our fair share to the war effort through active duty National Guard and Reserve deployments, many on multiple occasions. These deployments took a tremendous toll on the troops, their families and our communities.
Not only did the eight-year mission cost our nation $820 billion, racking up debt that we are struggling to deal with right now, but more importantly, too many lives were lost.
Combat in Iraq wounded 32,226 of our nation’s service members and unfortunately took the lives of 4,484 men and women, including 91 Wisconsinites.
In western Wisconsin alone, 21 men and women made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in Iraq. We owe all of our servicemen and women a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
Since 2003, I’ve visited Iraq four times. Nothing has made me more proud to be an American than seeing firsthand the job our men and women in uniform do for our country. They are well-trained, well-motivated and the best our nation has to offer. We should all be proud of their courageous service and make an effort to thank them each and every day.
While we warmly welcome back our brave men and women in uniform, and show our appreciation for their service on the battlefield, we also must make it a priority to support them here at home. This will not come cheap, it will not be easy, but it must be done.
We must continue to provide our veterans with the care and benefits they have earned, while working to ensure they return to good jobs and decent wages.
I supported the new Post 9/11 GI Bill so our troops can get the education and job training they need, tax incentives for employers to hire our veterans — whose unique skills and discipline any employer would find attractive — and programs to end veteran homelessness in our communities.
I’ve supported increased funding to the VA Healthcare System, including funding for Tomah VA Medical Center, realizing that many veterans are in need of treatment for the physical and mental injuries they bring home. These are priorities and obligations that our country must keep, even during difficult budget times.
With the end of the Iraq war, we can focus on nation building at home. It’s time to invest in the American people — creating jobs, strengthening the middle class and building an American future worthy of our veterans’ sacrifice.
As Obama recently said, Iraq is for the history books, but our troops’ service is for the ages. Now is the time for gratitude to those who served and remembrance for those we lost. It’s also a time to rededicate ourselves to our responsibilities to our veterans and to our country.
Ron Kind represents Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District.