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Our Responsibility to Remember

May 26, 2017

By the time many of you read this column, Memorial Day barbecues and road trips will be over. We will start to settle into the summer months, enjoying warm sunshine and vacations. My hope, though, is everyone will have taken time on Memorial Day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can live freely in America – and not lose sight of our gratitude to these brave men and women throughout the year.

In April, I had the opportunity to visit with seniors at Maxwell High School. Before arriving, I stopped with two of my staff members at the Fort McPherson National Cemetery. It was a cloudy, quiet morning, and as we silently observed the rows of headstones, we were moved by the recognition of everything these great Nebraskans, and Americans, had given to our country.

We live in a dangerous world, and our military members and first responders are the heroes who keep us safe each day. On May 22, the world was again devastated by a terror attack. A suicide bomber in Manchester, England, killed 22 people and wounded more than 60. The decision to target a venue filled with women and children is unthinkable. Once again, we saw first responders rush toward danger, just as we have seen countless times in tragedies here at home.

So far this year, I have had the honor of greeting hero flights from Dawson and Hall Counties, as well as the Nebraska Vietnam Flight which brought more than 650 veterans from across our state to the nation’s capital. It is deeply moving to see these heroes receive the cheers and thanks they deserve. At the same time, we remember their fellow service members who fought beside them but did not come home.

In the week leading up to Memorial Day, we focused our efforts in the House on passing legislation to better serve those who have served our country. These bills reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appeals process, enforce more accountability measures on VA scheduling, and improve access to the Adult Day Health Care program for severely disabled veterans. We also passed a bill to expand the study of innovative therapies for treating posttraumatic stress disorder.

The week prior, during National Police Week, we passed legislation to more adequately protect probation officers from violent third parties trying to harm them while performing their official duties. Additionally, we stiffened penalties for the murder or attempted murder of a state or local law enforcement officer or first responder. Under current law, only the killing of a federal officer is considered an “aggravating factor” in death penalty determinations, but we know crimes against all police officers and first responders must be deterred using the full extent of the law.  

Many families in Nebraska and across the country have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the selfless decision to put others’ safety above their own. On Memorial Day and every day, we have a responsibility to honor their memory. We owe them far too much to forget.