Veterans

Pete Hegseth: Life for our veterans (and our military) could be much different soon

FILE -- U.S. Army soldiers carry a large U.S. flag as they march in the Veterans Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York.

FILE -- U.S. Army soldiers carry a large U.S. flag as they march in the Veterans Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York.  (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Today, on November 11, America pauses to thank our veterans for their service to our nation. The freedoms we enjoy in this country—which are the exception to the rule in human history—were literally purchased by men and women of all generations who have courageously worn the uniformed cloth of our country.

We live free because warriors—and then veterans—have selflessly served our nation in dangerous places.

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At the very least, make sure to use this Veterans Day to honor and thank a veteran in your life.

Veterans Day is about honoring veterans, not politics. But we also cannot ignore that our nation’s policies impact the way we empower, and care for, our veterans. We have failed our military and veterans too often over the past eight years.

That said, the current state of our country for military members, and our veterans, is disappointing at best, and dangerous at worst.

 

At the Defense Department—the government’s largest department—deep spending cuts, failure to modernize our weapons, and utter strategic drift have created a readiness and morale crisis that makes America far too vulnerable.

At the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA)—the second largest federal department—a waiting list scandal exposed a corrosive, bloated, and unaccountable bureaucracy that is very good at serving itself—but not good at serving veterans.

On both fronts, thankfully, I believe a new era dawns. On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump made both rebuilding our military and fixing the VA two of his signature issues.

President-elect Trump is poised to do the same. President-elect Trump has pledged to get rid of the disastrous defense sequester, invest in long-overdue future military technologies, grow the ranks and numbers of ships and aircraft, and repeal stifling rules of engagement that handcuff our troops.

In just a few years, the posture of our military could look much different—ensuring America both deters aggression and can swiftly defeat enemies.

At the VA, President-elect Trump has pledged to “clean house”—an aggressive mandate veterans have been clamoring for. He has vowed to choose an aggressive VA secretary, and empower that leader to swiftly fire VA employees who have failed veterans. This will mean confronting the VA unions, as well as the VA bureaucracy; something Trump has unapologetically said he would do. Moreover, President-elect Trump has vowed to empower veterans to choose their healthcare—either from VA facilities or from a private physician. When veterans can choose, then VA must compete and is incentivized to treat veterans like customers, not numbers. It’s about time.

Veterans Day is about honoring veterans, not politics. But we also cannot ignore that our nation’s policies impact the way we empower, and care for, our veterans. We have failed our military and veterans too often over the past eight years.

My sincere believe is that President-elect Trump will muster the courage, leadership, and clarity of purpose to ensure America brings back “peace through strength” with our military posture and the enacts real reform at the VA.

It’s the least we can do for our warfighters.

Pete Hegseth is the former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom. A Fox News contributor, he is an infantry officer in the Army National Guard and has served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.  He is the author of “In the Arena” and serves on the Advisory Board for United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).

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