It is right to show our appreciation

I was working on a pipeline near Eutaw, Ala., on the Tombigbee River when I heard Pearl Harbor had been attacked, and the United States had officially entered World War II. At that time, I had never heard of Pearl Harbor, and like so many young men from small towns and cities across America we would soon be sent to places unknown to most of us to fight for our nation’s freedom. Many of those men made the ultimate sacrifice in those distant lands.

Coming from a military family — my father fought in WWI, and my brother fought in both theaters during WWII — I was proud to enlist and serve my country. I had an easy war compared to many, piloting aircraft for the Navy from carriers in the Pacific theater. We lost many pilots, both in training and in combat, and I have carried the memory of those lost friends throughout my life.


Although WWII veterans served in different theaters and different branches that formed our national defense — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard — when the war ended, we all decorated graves and cemeteries and shared thanks for finally getting home and living in freedom. We all believed in having the strongest military defense to ward off those who would threaten us. Most veterans will tell you that we abhor war and believe the best way to ensure peace and freedom is by maintaining the strongest military in the world.

Because I grew up in rural Texas during the Depression, hard work was something I learned from an early age. But serving in WWII taught me another of life’s greatest lessons: discipline. I learned how to focus that good work ethic and to be persistent, to fight for what you believe in and never give up. The war also united our country toward a common goal, and after the war ended, strong support for our veterans was tangible. Similarly, many veterans felt a sense of duty to continue in other ways serving the country they had helped protect and to invest in America’s future.

Representing veterans has been one reason I have spent half a century in public service. In my hometown I have a Band of Brothers who meet weekly and who are my trusted friends and advisers. My district has one of the highest populations of veterans in the nation, and many of my friends in Congress over the years have been veterans. We have worked together to see that our troops and veterans today receive the help and benefits they need, which is the least we can do to repay them for their sacrifices. This includes proper funding for equipment, training and personal financial security.

One of the biggest issues currently facing our veterans is the backlog of benefits claims filed with Veterans Affairs. The fact that thousands of our nation’s heroes cannot receive adequate health benefits to address disabilities from their active duty service is unacceptable. That is why I was pleased the House recently passed H.R. 2189, a bill that would assess the claims process and offer solutions to address the backlog so that our veterans receive efficient, effective and timely health benefits.

We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have answered the call of service, and all those who are currently defending our nation against threats around the globe. We must support them and continue to support a strong defense.

As we celebrate Veterans Day and honor all those who have fought and sacrificed for our country throughout our nation’s history, we also pause to honor those who are serving today, both at home and abroad. All of those who have worked in our defense have done so in support of our nation’s greatest gift: freedom. And the freedom we all enjoy today is a result of their courage, sacrifice and commitment.

Veterans are a valued part of our communities, and it is right that we should show our appreciation. I thank our troops, both past and present, for their service to this great nation, and my prayers go out to those whose loved ones were injured or killed while serving. Their sacrifices are appreciated, and they will not be forgotten.

Hall has represented Texas’s 4th Congressional District since 1981. He sits on the Energy and Commerce; and the Science, Space and Technology committees. He is one of the two remaining members of Congress who served in the Second World War. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is the other.