Last month, I traveled to Afghanistan where I had the opportunity to visit with service members who bravely sacrifice every day to keep our country safe, secure, and free.
In the face of threats from ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan, which has designs on attacking the United States, these service members are doing vital work training Afghanistan’s Army and Special Forces to combat terrorist organizations.
Many of these American men and women have served multiple tours away from their families, including one service member I met who was on his fourth deployment.
I am incredibly grateful for the work of all the U.S. service members I met in Afghanistan — and others around the world — who serve our country with distinction in the face of significant daily challenges and personal sacrifices.
On Veterans Day – and every day – we must honor and thank all who serve, and have ever served, for all that they have done for each of us – and all of us – simply because we are Americans.
I am awed by how much veterans have sacrificed to defend the freedoms that are at the very core of our nation. And my reverence for these service members only deepens when I see example after example of veterans who continue to serve in their communities, even after their time in uniform concludes.
Examples like that of Jerry Lachance of Sandown, a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran who biked more than 2,000 miles from Florida to New Hampshire to support fellow veterans. Jerry’s efforts raised funds to support veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
And Jim Alty of Dover, an 85-year-old Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and who fought tirelessly to bring a new VA outpatient clinic to Somersworth. That new clinic opened last month, and those of us who attended the ribbon-cutting were thrilled at the recognition he received – but never sought.
Veterans are doing inspiring work to support one another and to support their communities. But it should not be veterans’ responsibility alone to carry on that work. It falls upon all Americans to ensure that veterans and their families have the support that they need and have earned.
Far too many veterans experience significant challenges when transitioning to civilian life, and we must continue working together to solve these challenges. Veterans Day is an important time to reaffirm those efforts. And despite the partisanship that stalls progress on too many pressing challenges in Washington, I am proud that members of both parties routinely set aside their differences to find common ground on issues critical to veterans.
As part of those efforts, we have come together on legislation to improve veterans’ health care, tackle mental health challenges, and ease the transition into civilian life. I will continue working across party lines with anyone who is serious about improving care for veterans and helping them thrive in civilian life. This includes continuing to press for the full passage of the Deborah Sampson Act to support women veterans so that all women who have served know how much we value their patriotism and that they will have the support that they need.
We must continue working to ensure that our country is ever-worthy of the service that veterans have given to protect all Americans. This Veterans Day, I encourage all Granite Staters to reflect on – and recommit to – the values that veterans throughout our history have fought for, the values that put country and liberty first. And that gave rise to our cherished state motto, “Live Free or Die.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan served as the 81st governor of NH. She earned her B.A. from Brown University and her J.D. from the Northeastern School of Law. She and her husband, Tom, who serves as the President of School Year Abroad, live in Newfields and are the proud parents of two children, Ben (31) and Meg (26). She is running for reelection.