Paul Rieckhoff– Exec. Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
It’s time once again for that seasonal blend of gratitude and that deep longing for the familiar –family, health, pumpkin pie, turkey, and the Detroit Lions getting blown-out on National TV.
Eight years of war have brought tremendous challenges for our military, our veterans and their families. And just a few weeks ago, the military community was tested yet again by the terrible tragedy at Fort Hood.
Despite these obstacles, our men and women in uniform continue to soldier on. And this year, they have more than a few things to give thanks for. In 2009, we’ve seen some big victories for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Just last month, advanced funding for VA health care was signed into law. A top priority for leading veterans groups for decades, this reform will transform veterans’ health care forever.
In 2009, we also saw the implementation of the new GI Bill, a historic measure which will send thousands of young men and women in uniform to college. And, we saw the new veterans movement grow and take hold across the country. From the largest Veterans Week celebrations ever to a thriving Community of Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are coming together and showing one another that they have each other’s backs.
I know I am thankful for all of the above, but also for the support I’ve seen from people around the country for our veterans. I also think back to my Thanksgiving in Germany at CMCT, and I am grateful that I am not in the mud freezing my butt off. And I think back to my Thanksgiving in Baghdad, and I am grateful that all the men in my platoon came home alive. I am also grateful for those like Milo Ventimiglia who are taking USO trips overseas to see our troops. And, I am grateful for the inspiration of a true American hero, J.R Martinez, and the 60 kids from P.S. 22 who taught us that Rihanna can be a very powerful anthem.