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Weekly Column: Honoring Those We Lost

Memorial Day is a special time for us to remember all the brave men and women who died defending our nation on the battlefield. They paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms. While they can never be repaid for their sacrifices, this weekend allows us to honor them posthumously. On Memorial Day, we remember who we have lost while serving this country. Their memory lives on through their families and friends and the legacies they leave behind, but it also lives on through the daily lives of all Americans who are safe and free because of their service. Through our Constitution, our founding fathers recognized the God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Through the service of our men and women in uniform, those rights have been maintained. My uncle Marion Rounds, whom I am named after, was killed in battle on the Pacific island of Okinawa in 1945. I honor his memory, but especially on Memorial Day.

In the Senate, I have the unique privilege to serve on two committees that focus specifically on our military personnel: The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. In my time working in these committees, I continue to listen to the voices of veterans and current service men and women. I am humbled by their stories of bravery in the face of death and the horrors of war. Their heroism inspires me to do all I can to provide our military with the best tools to protect themselves while fighting the enemy, and provide our veterans with the care they’ve been promised so they can lead a happy, healthy life.

Just this month, provisions from two of my bills were included in the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed out of the Armed Services Committee. The first provision that passed would protect B-1 bombers from premature retirement. My legislation would add congressional oversight to any decision to retire the B-1, B-2 or B-52 bomber aircraft. Unless the Department of Defense can certify that retirement of these aircraft will not result in loss of operational capability, they will remain in use. In South Dakota, we have 27 B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base that are critical to protecting our country. Long-range strike bombers play an important role in our national defense. A strong, properly supported bomber force will allow our Air Force men and women to continue to do their jobs safely and successfully.  

Another of my provisions included in NDAA deals with current military members and military retirees’ access to healthcare. It would streamline the process for families enrolled in Tricare health plans when they move from one Tricare region to another. The current system for transferring Tricare beneficiaries is often ineffective, resulting in unnecessary delays. Our service members give everything to our country. Making simple changes to streamline transfer of their health care is the very least we can do.

The world continues to be a dangerous place. Members of our military continue to bravely fight those who wish to do us harm. They keep America free and make the world a better place. This Memorial Day, please take a moment to say thank you to our veterans and remember the sacrifices made to protect our freedoms. 


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