Good morning. This is Senator Daniel Akaka, United States Senator from Hawaii.
On Monday, our nation observes a sacred holiday — Memorial Day. It's the day America pays tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service.
As a veteran of World War II, Memorial Day holds special meaning for me. Like veterans of all wars, I have vivid memories of those who served but did not come back.
In America, we pay a heavy price for freedom, something the people of Hawaii were reminded of again last week.
Three more of our brave Kaneohe Bay Marines died in Iraq. The 3rd battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment has now lost eleven Marines since it deployed in March. My prayers go out to their families, as well as to all those who have lost loved ones fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But this Memorial Day, we remember the cost of America's freedom is not only measured in the lives we have lost. It is also measured in how we take care of those who've served and are serving today.
As the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, taking care of America's troops and veterans is my top priority.
That is why I was shocked to learn the Department of Veterans Affairs not only allowed the names, Social Security numbers, and addresses of 26 million Veterans to fall into criminal hands — but then waited weeks to report the theft.
Such recklessness must not be tolerated. The Administration needs to get a handle on this situation immediately, assist victims in obtaining free credit reports and monitoring, and make sure they are protected from financial or other harm.
America's veterans gave us their best in service; we must always give them ours.
Earlier this month, I was proud my amendment to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs by $430 million was adopted in the Senate. It includes much needed money for new Vet Centers, for Veterans Hospitals, and mental health care.
Health care for America's heroes is not the place to cut corners, which is why I have always been against imposing burdensome enrollment fees and increasing the co-pays for those in the VA system. We need mandatory funding for veterans health care, not mandated fees imposed on veterans who need care.
In good times and bad, our nation's commitment to those who wear the uniform must never waver. From the day recruits join the military — through their years of service — to the day they leave this Earth, America has promises to keep.
To give them the best equipment, body armor, training and support they need.
To never send them into battle without a strategy to succeed.
To give them the care they require when they come home.
And to take care of the survivors of those who die in service or from conditions attributed to their service.
These are promises the United States government kept with my generation after World War II, and they are promises Democrats are fighting to ensure are kept today.
I'm Senator Daniel Akaka from Hawaii. Thank you for listening.