(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to honor the men and women who died serving our country in the armed forces. She discussed the need to take care of our nation’s veterans, and she urged her colleagues to pass her legislation to help veterans get back on the job.
The full text of the speech follows:
“Mr. President, I come to the floor today to honor and commemorate the men and women who died fighting for our great country.
“Memorial Day is a day to honor those American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
“It’s because of their sacrifice that we can safely enjoy the freedoms our great country offers. And it is because of their unmatched commitment that America can remain a beacon for democracy and freedom throughout the world.
“Mr. President, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but also a day for reflection. When our brave men and women volunteered to protect our nation, we promised them that we would take care of them and their families when they return home.
“On this Memorial Day, we need to ask ourselves, are we doing enough for our nation’s veterans?
“Making sure our veterans can find jobs when they come home is an area where we could do more.
“For too long, we have been investing billions of dollars training our young men and women to protect our nation, only to ignore them when they come home.
“For too long, we have patted them on the back and pushed them into the job market with no support. This is simply unacceptable, and it doesn’t meet the promise we made to our servicemembers.
“Mr. President, our hands-off approach has left us with an unemployment rate of over 27% among young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“That is over one in five of our nation’s heroes who can’t find a job to support their family, and who don’t have an income to provide the stability that is so critical to their transition home.
“That’s why earlier this month I introduced the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, which was cosponsored by 17 senators and garnered bipartisan support.
“This legislation will rethink the way we support our men and women in uniform when they come home looking for jobs.
“I introduced this critical legislation because I’ve heard first-hand from so many veterans that we haven’t done enough to provide them with the support they need to find work.
“I’ve heard from medics who return home from treating battlefield wounds who can’t get certifications to be an EMT or to drive an ambulance. And I’ve even had veterans tell me that they no longer write that they’re a veteran on their resume because they fear the stigma they believe employers attach to the invisible wounds of war.
“These stories are as heartbreaking as they are frustrating. But more than anything they’re a reminder that we have to act now.
“Mr. President, my bill would allow our servicemembers to capitalize on their service.
“For the first time, it would require broad job skills training for everyone leaving the military as part of the military’s Transition Assistance Program. Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don’t get this training.
“My bill would also require the Department of Labor to take a hard look at what military skills and training should be translatable into the civilian sector, and will work to make it simpler to get the licenses and certification our veterans need.
“All of these are real, substantial steps to put our veterans to work. All of them come at a pivotal time for our economic recovery and our veterans.
“Mr. President, I grew up with the Vietnam War, and I have dedicated much of my Senate career helping to care for the veterans we left behind at that time.
“The mistakes we made then have cost our nation and our veterans dearly. Today we risk repeating those mistakes.
“We can’t let that happen again. Our nation’s veterans are disciplined, team players who have proven they can deliver under pressure like no one else.
“Mr. President, let’s not let another year, and another Memorial Day, go by without us delivering for them.
“Thank you. I yield the floor.”