Westchester, N.Y. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today spoke at the Greenburgh Veterans Day Ceremony and Veterans Memorial Park Groundbreaking. The full text of Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery are copied below:
“Thank you all for being here.
“Thank you to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, to Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, to New York State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins to Colonel Glenn Marchi and to Hugh McAuley, Chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee.
“Veterans Day honors the heroism of millions of American veterans.
“It’s our day to commemorate the sacrifices made by all of the men and women who have served in our military over the years – as well as their families, who have served and sacrificed alongside them.
“And it’s our day to thank our veterans for taking such incredible risks for this country, and to thank them for working to make this country better, even after they return home.
“We should be honoring our veterans every day – not just on November 11th.
“Our veterans serve on and off the battlefield. Everyone knows about their bravery during their time in the military, but too many of us are not aware of the barriers that they and their families often face when they come home.
“Too many of our veterans are struggling with mental health injuries.
“Too many of our veterans cannot find jobs.
“And too many of our veterans are forced to spend their time, their energy, and their money fighting government bureaucracy, just to get the benefits they earned.
“This Veterans Day, if we want to truly honor our veterans, we need to act, and show these brave men and women how much we care about not only what they did for us, but about their desire to continue to serve their country here at home.
“We must show them that we will continue to fight for them, just as they have fought, and continue to fight, for us.
“I know we have a number of Vietnam veterans here today.
“Let me give you an example of a bill I’ve been urging my colleagues to support in the Senate that would help make life easier for thousands of struggling Vietnam Veterans.
“As many of you know so well, in the Vietnam War, thousands of men and women were exposed to a horrific chemical known as Agent Orange.
“It was dangerous, it was toxic, and it severely damaged the health of the people who were exposed to it.
“The US government recognized the harmful effects of Agent Orange in the late 1960s. It’s a weapon that we never should have used.
And because of how dangerous this chemical was, the VA now actively provides care and coverage to many soldiers who were exposed to Agent Orange. But not all of them.
“Under current VA rules, the only American veterans who are counted as having been exposed to this deadly chemical are the people who actually walked on the ground, on Vietnamese soil, and the people who served on boats on Vietnam’s rivers.
“This means that thousands of US Navy veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while stationed on ships just off the Vietnamese coastline are not being served by the VA.
“This doesn’t make any sense, and isn’t fair to these thousands of veterans who risked their lives in Vietnam.
“Agent Orange did not discriminate between those who stood on boats on rivers, and those who stood on boats off-shore.
“So why should the VA discriminate between the two?
“Because of this arbitrary and bureaucratic rule, thousands of our Navy veterans are not getting the care or benefits they earned. It’s time to right this wrong. Let’s cut the red tape that’s causing additional suffering.
“I introduced a bill in the Senate that would correct this problem, so that our Blue Water Veterans can finally get the care they need and deserve. And I’ve been urging my colleagues to support it.
“This is just one of many challenges our veterans today are still forced to deal with, but it’s one that exemplifies how important it is for all of you to keep raising your voices about the issues that matter most to you.
“So I urge you to speak out about veteran’s issues. Write letters to the editor, call your member of Congress.
“Nothing ever gets done in Washington unless regular people raise their voices about the issues that matter to them.
“These problems are too important for Congress to ignore.
“Next year, when you come back to this beautiful park on Veterans Day, there will be a new veteran’s memorial right here where we stand so that anyone who comes through here to the train station, to relax on a day off, or to take a walk with their family, will be able to stop here, and reflect on all the sacrifices our veterans have made for this country.
“I wish you all a meaningful Veterans Day.