BY BOB DETTMER – GUEST COLUMNIST
Monday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. I’ll be speaking at the Veterans Day ceremony at Forest Lake High School where I taught for 34 years. It is an honor to be part of recognizing our nation’s heroes.
I’d like to tell you about the sacrifices of men and women who have valiantly and selflessly devoted themselves towards something greater than themselves — the United States of America. They have served our nation bravely and continue to do so as role models we can all look up to.
It wasn’t long after I started teaching that I felt a calling to join the U.S. Army Reserves. My service brought me to Kuwait at the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2011, I retired after 25 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserves. Today, I am proud to serve our community as a state representative in the Minnesota legislature.
During my service with the U.S. military and now during my public service at the State Capitol, I’ve met many of our veterans who are selfless heroes. America faces a changing world with new challenges. Still, our strongest force against all enemies is our all-volunteer force of strong men and women that put service for country first.
Whether they are building relationships with the Afghan people to stabilize that country or pulling survivors from rubble in some of our worst natural disasters here at home, our soldiers today must be versatile and skilled in countless areas. America’s armed forces have been there when we needed them throughout history.
Our veterans crouched in the muddy trenches of Europe, confronted the enemy from the rocky crags of the Italian Alps and struggled up the sandy beaches of Normandy in service. They froze through the bitter winters in the mountains of South Korea and steamed in the sodden jungles of Vietnam in service. They’ve chased terrorists over the 10,000-foot mountain tops of Eastern Afghanistan and squinted against the dusty wind on the bleak, empty landscapes of Iraq in service.
But that’s not all our service members have done. Even beyond fighting in wars, our troops are engaged in humanitarian and peace keeping missions.
Troops have gone to faraway places in countries torn apart by conflict to stand in the middle and maintain peace. They have built roads and bridges, schools and hospitals and provided water and electricity to the people of war torn countries.
At home, all of us can find new ways to serve those who have served.
For the business owner, it means giving a veteran a chance to use his or her extensive skills to build a career through a new job. For our cities and counties, it means maintaining important programs like “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.”
For students, it means learning about the history our veterans have helped shape and always remembering their sacrifice by paying proper respect to the American Flag and surviving veterans in our community.
For government, it means providing veterans with the services and financial policies they deserve.
Today, there are nearly 25 million veterans in the United States, and thousands on active duty are currently deployed abroad. In Minnesota, we are home to over 370,000 living military veterans. These are patriotic Americans who put their families, communities and country first, to uphold the freedoms we all enjoy. When they come home, many face financial and health problems that can be just as threatening as the enemy on the battlefield.
We, as American citizens, and our state and federal government must develop ways we can better care for our veterans, including more relevant health care, housing for aging vets and the issue of joblessness and homelessness among veterans. As they come home, it falls to us, their fellow citizens, to be there for them and their families — not just now but always; not just for the first few years, but for as long as they walk this earth.
Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, represents House District 39A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. District 39A includes part of Stillwater, as well as several communities to the north up to Shafer.