Since I was sworn into office, we have lost two local heroes, both serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Bryan A. Burgess of Cleburne died protecting his country on March 29. After serving two tours of duty in Iraq, he was only days away from completing his third deployment in the Middle East and was killed just short of his 30th birthday. Staff Sergeant Scott H. Burgess of Franklin, Texas lost his life in the service of his country on April 4. He came from a family of distinguished military men. Both young men laid down their lives for this country and for our freedom and I am humbled by their service and for their families’ sacrifices.
Veterans make up 10 percent of the population of the 17th Congressional District of Texas. It is an honor that veterans represent such a significant part of our community. As a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am mindful of our obligations to our veterans and to those who continue to defend America against our enemies. Fiscal responsibility and national security are directly proportional. In order to keep a strong military and maintain our national security, we must first have a strong and growing economy.
While we must never balance the budget on the backs of our veterans nor risk the safety of our country by starving our military, we also cannot allow limited resources to be used ineffectively. For these reasons I supported the House budget that provides full funding for VA medical care, benefits and services and disability compensation. Put simply, there are no cuts to VA programs in the House budget.
Our country is suffering through the slowest jobs recovery since the Great Depression, with millions of Americans still unemployed. What’s worse, in 2010 the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 11.5 percent, leaving more than 239,000 American combat veterans struggling to find jobs. I am proud to recognize the Lowes of Granbury, Texas for their decision to hire 22 unemployed veterans. By hiring these men and women, Lowes is setting the bar high for other employers in our nation to follow this example. My hope is that more Americans will take the initiative to give back to the veterans living in their communities.
When I visited the U.S. Veterans Museum of Granbury, I was humbled by the stories of the men and women who have risked their lives protecting our country. I am also proud to note that our district includes the Waco VA Hospital, which opened in 1932 to provide medical care for veterans. Recently, this facility was designated as the “VA Center of Excellence” for psychiatric care for veterans.
There is perhaps no greater sacrifice that an American can make than serving our country during a time of war. We are eternally indebted to all of the men and women across the world who have served or who are currently serving to ensure our generation preserves liberty and freedom to pass on to our children and grandchildren.
On Memorial Day, we pay tribute to Americans from every generation who have given their lives for our freedom. From Valley Forge to Afghanistan to Iraq, brave men and women have given up their own futures so that others might have a future of freedom. Because of their sacrifice, millions here and around the world enjoy the blessings of liberty. And wherever these patriots rest, we offer them the respect and gratitude of our nation.
May God bless our veterans and our troops and may God bless the United States of America.
U.S. Congressman Bill Flores (R-Texas) represents the 17th Congressional District of Texas and is a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, the House Budget Committee, and the House Natural Resources Committee.