Skip to content

Sen. Joni Ernst: This Veterans Day, let's renew our efforts for a Global War on Terrorism Memorial

My heart sank as I watched the final plane depart from Kabul International Airport on August 30, 2021—the day President Joe Biden concluded our disastrous exit from Afghanistan. 

The emotions I felt on that day are not unlike many felt by the heroes of wars past—those who still bear the scars of battle, seen and unseen. It was surreal watching America leave her own people behind enemy lines. And for the 13 families who lost loved ones at the Kabul airport on August 26, 2021, the wounds are still fresh today.placeholder

Every Veterans Day is important and meaningful—not only to our veteran community but to our nation. It’s a day to pause, honor, and thank the countless men and women who have chosen to serve America and her people. 

This year, it strikes me as all the more important to truly extend our gratitude to the veterans and families who have given us so much and have sacrificed to defend the greatest nation on the face of our planet.

Since the U.S. withdrawal from and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, I’ve continued to hear from veterans—particularly those who, like myself, served in the Global War on Terrorism. They’ve relayed just how hard it is to grapple with the way in which the withdrawal was handled—the broken promises to our Afghan allies, the Taliban flag flying over what was once the U.S. embassy in Kabul, and the atrocities forced on women and girls who just a year before had tasted freedom in education and the work place. 

Ultimately, all of this has led too many of our veterans and Gold Star families to question whether their service and sacrifice was worth it.

I want to be crystal clear: those who fought and died in the Global War on Terrorism are heroes. For 20 years, these brave servicemembers selflessly gave up the comfort of civilian life in order to protect our homeland and safeguard the freedoms and liberties we continue to enjoy today. An all-volunteer force made of men and women from all walks of life took the fight to the terrorists and prevented another 9/11. America is forever indebted to these patriots.

This Veterans Day I have a renewed passion for ensuring our nation does right by those who have given so much for us. I’ve been working on a bipartisan effort to build a Global War on Terrorism Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This effort has gained the backing of many of my colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—with over 50 cosponsors in the Senate. The effort was included in the House of Representative’s annual defense bill, and I continue to work on it in the Senate.placeholder

We also have the support of many influential public figures, including Five for Fighting singer John Ondrasik, country singer Kellie Pickler, and actors Milo Ventimiglia and Gary Sinise. In addition, the six surviving secretaries of defense—spanning Democratic and Republican Administrations—who led the Defense Department during the past 20 years of the Global War on Terrorism believe this memorial should be on our National Mall.

As a combat veteran who served over 23 years in our nation’s uniform, I am forever grateful for all who’ve fought to preserve our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because of the selfless sacrifice of our nation’s heroes, and their families, America has been kept safe. May God bless my fellow veterans this Veterans Day.

Republican Joni Ernst represents Iowa in the United States Senate. She is the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate and a former commander in the Iowa Army National Guard and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Click HERE to read the op-ed as published by Fox News.