Transcript: Democrats' Radio Response

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, delivered the response to the president's weekly radio address:

Hello. I'm Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas. On Thursday, Veterans Day, I was proud to join with millions of Americans in honoring the selfless service and sacrifice of those who have worn our nation's uniform.

As the son of a World War II veteran, and as the father of two young sons, J.T., 8, and Garrison, 7, I am deeply grateful to every veteran for making the world a safer place for my children and their generation.

As the representative of over 42,000 Army soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas, I have seen first-hand the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women and their families. There are no make up days for parents called to duty who missed the birth of their children, or first steps or high school graduation.

There is no price that can be placed on a Gold Star mother's loss of her son or daughter in combat.

When I visit our VA hospitals, I am also reminded that the personal cost of war does not end with the signing of a cease fire agreement. I am always humbled and inspired by the courage of those who have given so much in service to our nation.

Last Thanksgiving my wife, Lea Ann and our two sons went to Walter Reed Army hospital just outside of Washington, D.C. to thank our soldiers wounded in Iraq.

The first soldier we met was only 20-years-old and had been out of high school less than two years. He had lost a leg in combat and his mother was by his side. I'll never forget what he said to me: "Sir, I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I am proud to have served my country and I would be proud to do it again."

Then, just a few months ago at Ft. Hood, I met a young widow, Ursula Pirtle, knowing that the newborn daughter cuddled in her arms would never gaze into the eyes of her father who gave his life in Iraq. When Mrs. Pirtle asked me a question, it wasn't about her future. She asked me if there was anything she could do to help other military widows cope with the recent loss of their loved ones.

I've wondered ever since -- How can we ever repay our debt of gratitude to such a caring, selfless young widow or to such a brave young soldier?

The truth is you and I know we can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to them or to the millions of servicemen and women and veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for us.

It is right that we have a special day, November 11th, to honor our veterans with speeches and parades all across America. Our veterans deserve a special day of recognition, but we should also honor our veterans every day.

By visiting a veteran in a VA hospital or stopping a veteran in a grocery store or in our neighborhoods to say, "thank you", we can let them know their service to country is not forgotten.

In our nation's capital, the Administration and Congress must do more to support our servicemen and women and veterans.

We Democrats should and will put partisanship aside when it comes to supporting our troops, their families and our veterans. At the same time, we will not be silent, when, during our war on terrorism, Benedict Arnold corporations can rent $10,000 a year post office boxes in Bermuda just to avoid paying their fair share of U.S. taxes, while quality of life programs for our military families have been cut by $500 million since the Iraqi war began.

We believe it is wrong that this year's VA health care budget does not even keep up with health care inflation, even though 28,000 new Iraqi war veterans have needed VA health care services. We will continue to speak out that a country that can afford tax breaks for people making over $1 million a year can surely afford to reduce months long waiting lists of veterans who need and deserve VA health care.

The Veterans Administration and its dedicated employees deserve credit for providing quality care for millions of our veterans but the VA and the veterans it serves deserve more resources to ensure quality timely care for all our vets.

Together, Democrats and Republicans must work harder to see that our heart-felt respect for our veterans is reflected in our federal budget priorities. Our respect for veterans must be shown by our words and our deeds.

Finally, as we approach the season of Thanksgiving, my family joins with President Bush and his family and millions of American families in prayer for the safety of our servicemen and women in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world who are sacrificing for the American family.

May God bless them and keep them in his loving arms, and may God bless our veterans and the nation which they have served so well. I'm Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas. Thank you.