U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran who served in the armed forces for over 23 years, spoke today on the Senator floor to honor our nation’s veterans ahead of Veterans Day 2019. Senator Ernst highlighted the story of Iowa veteran Glenn McDole, who, after being held as a prisoner of war in World War II, continued to serve his state in the Iowa State Patrol and Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Ernst also discussed her work in the Senate to support our veterans, including expanding access to services through the bipartisan VA MISSION Act, which included a number of her priorities, like allowing qualified VA health providers to practice telemedicine across state lines and enabling veterans to receive care, such as vital mental health care treatment, from the comfort of their own homes. Additionally, Ernst highlighted her HAVEN Act, which President Trump signed into law earlier this year.
Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:
“Having worn our great nation’s colors in Operation Iraqi Freedom, veterans hold a special place in my heart.
“Some of my favorite moments in Iowa are centered on honoring our veterans and their families with the medals and the recognition that they have earned.
“Oftentimes these humble heroes don’t want to step forward and receive the honor they’re due. Glenn McDole is a great example of this.
“Glenn served in World War II and faced some very, very dark days—being only one of the 11 out of a total of 150 that survived the Palawan Massacre.
“Glenn was captured in 1941 and came home in 1945, and it wasn’t until the early 1980s that he started speaking about his military experience.
“When he returned home from war, he didn’t skip a beat in his service. Glenn quickly joined the Iowa State Patrol and then the Polk County Sherriff’s Office.
“Glenn lived a very full life of service, yet his heroic actions in uniform would go unnoticed for so many years…
“I’m so grateful that his family got in touch with my office and we were able to track down the more than 13 medals that he should have received for his service.
“Presenting the medals to his family earlier this year in my office in Des Moines was truly a beautiful moment.
“The medals presented to Glenn’s family—and the number of other veterans and families across Iowa who have received these well-deserved recognitions—represent duty, honor, and sacrifice.
“It’s the heroic stories of these very veterans, like Glenn, that truly inspire me to keep fighting for our veterans day-in and day-out.
“And as someone who commanded men and women overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom and then served as the battalion commander of the largest battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard, I have a deep connection and appreciation for our veterans.
“Just this past weekend, as I was wrapping up my 99 County Tour in Iowa, I was able to spend some time with more of those Iowa veterans at my veterans’ resource fair.
“We were sharing stories about those hard times…we were laughing about the good times…but we talked about the concerns they have with the VA and making sure they’re getting the quality of care they’ve earned, and we talked about the work we’ve done in the Senate to improve their well-being.
“In just the past few years, under the Trump Administration, we’ve been able to expand access to services through legislation like the VA MISSION Act—a bipartisan bill that I proudly helped get signed into law.
“This important bill included a number of my priorities, like allowing qualified VA health providers to practice telemedicine across state lines and veterans to their receive care thought that telemedicine, including vital mental health care treatment, and doing it from the comfort of their own home.
“President Trump just signed another one of my bills into law – the HAVEN Act –that protects the economic security and well-being of veterans and their families who rely on disability benefits and may be experiencing financial hardship.
“I’ve also continued to press the VA to take a hard look at their hiring practices and make sure the people treating and providing care to our veterans have a record of quality care, specifically by introducing the bipartisan Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act.
“The legislation ensures that the VA is absolutely held accountable for how they help care for our veterans, and I’m continuing to press them on that issue.
“We must work tirelessly to restore hope in the institutions that have asked so much of our nation’s heroes.
“Plain and simple, veterans must have reliable, quality mental and physical healthcare. There is no other option.
“Folks, as we take a moment to reflect on the work we’ve done and continue to do in Congress on behalf of these men and women, we should also pause, as we do every year on Veterans Day, to simply honor their service and the sacrifices they’ve made for our country and for our freedom.
“Serving in the military provided me some of the best years, the best friends, the best experiences, and the best memories of my life.
“Each year, Veterans Day serves as a stark reminder of the daily sacrifice made by those who have served this country bravely and selflessly. Veterans—in Iowa and across our nation—you have my support and my deepest gratitude today, and every day of the year.
“When men and women sacrifice time with their families, they give up their holidays, the comfort, and their livelihoods to protect our nation and defend the freedoms we often take for granted, we must fulfill our commitment to caring for them when they return home.
“So to all of my fellow veterans, may God bless you and keep you. And for their families, thank you so much for standing behind your loved ones in our country’s time of need.”