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Ernst Helps Lead Bipartisan Effort to Honor WWII Army Rangers with the Congressional Gold Medal

WASHINGTON—Ahead of Memorial Day, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a retired lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, along with her fellow female combat veteran who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), are leading a bipartisan effort to award the U.S. Army Ranger Veterans of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal. The bill passed the Senate unanimously last Congress.
“Our brave World War II Army Rangers, like the late Lester Cook of Des Moines, risked life and limb in the name of our great country—and their sacrifices and heroic actions deserve to be recognized,” said Senator Joni Ernst, the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate. “As we look ahead to Memorial Day, I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan bill that will recognize the valor and extraordinary service of these courageous Army Rangers with the Congressional Gold Medal—a small token of appreciation from a grateful nation.”
“U.S. Army Rangers bravely wore the uniform of this great nation and participated in some of the most important battles of World War II,” Duckworth said. “The impact and influence of these elite soldiers and the sacrifices they made to protect their fellow Americans cannot be overstated. I’m proud to re-introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Ernst ahead of Memorial Day to award these Veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal, and I look forward to it becoming law.”
“The young men who went to fight in World War II did so knowing that they may never return home. The first Ranger Battalions fought in some of the most important battles of the War, including in Tunisia, Normandy, and Italy,” said Miller-Meeks. “As a 24-year Army veteran, I am proud to introduce this legislation to honor these heroes. Thousands of lives were lost in the fight to defend our freedoms and we must never forget them.”
“When I served in the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan, the heroism and courage of WWII Rangers were a guiding inspiration for my own service,” said Congressman Jason Crow. “U.S. Army Rangers played a significant role in some of the most important battles of WWII and the Ranger motto ‘Rangers Lead the Way,’ was coined during the attack on Omaha Beach. There is no time to wait in honoring their service. I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan and bicameral legislation to award these heroes the Congressional Gold Medal.”
“Witness to War has dedicated our mission to preserving and promoting the stories of combat veterans, including WWII Rangers, and we’re glad to see the re-introduction of bipartisan legislation to award them with the Congressional Gold Medal.  The men of the Greatest Generation are passing away at a rapid pace, and it would be wonderful to move forward with this Medal while some of these Rangers are still around to be properly thanked for their incredible service to our nation. We will continue to support this bill until it has been passed, which we hope is soon,” said Emily Carley, Director, Witness to War Foundation.
“There were thousands of WWII soldiers who wanted to be in the newly-formed Ranger units, but only the strongest volunteers were accepted for the rigorous training and dangerous combat operations. WWII Rangers were at the front of assaults on enemy-held beaches and infiltrated behind enemy lines. Casualties were high. My father, a survivor of the Normandy mission on D-Day, was most proud of his time as a WWII Ranger. Now it is time for our country to come together and show its pride for these heroes from WWII who so bravely volunteered, served our country, and gave us the legacy, “Rangers Lead The Way!,” said Ron Hudnell, Son of WWII Ranger PFC James H. Hudnell, D Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion (1924-2007), and Descendants of WWII Rangers, Inc. Board Member.
“There were about 7000 Rangers who served in WWII, and today there are only 20 of us left. We lost another one last weekend. We are falling fast. Speaking for all of the WWII Rangers, it is about damn time that Congress award the Congressional Gold Medal to WWII Rangers if they want us to receive it. They need to do it quickly while there are some of us left. I have felt that way for a long time, but no one knew how difficult it would be to get this to happen,” said Major General (Ret) John C. Raaen, Jr., WWII Ranger, HQ Company, 5th Ranger Battalion; Omaha Beach.
“These men, when at an early age, not only fought to stop Nazism, not only to preserve Democracy, but to create the possibility for all Americans as well as those in countries under dictatorship control, to speak freely, to have a voice in how they are governed, to remove or diminish authoritarianism, and to pave the way for future generations. We still need these heroes in today’s world more than ever and we need to recognize them now,” said Howard Mann, Son of WWII Ranger PFC Harold G. Mann, C Company, 5th Ranger Battalion.
“There are 20 of these gallant volunteers with us still. Let us act now,” said Greg Morton, Son of WWII Ranger T/5 John F. Morton, 4th Ranger Battalion.
The late Mr. Cook was one of the original 1st Ranger Battalion Darby Rangers and was handpicked and trained at Achnacarry, Scotland. Prior to his passing, Senator Ernst’s staff met with Mr. Cook to discuss what the Congressional Gold Medal means to him and his fellow Army Rangers.
In September 2020, Ernst attended the memorial service for Mr. Cook to help honor his legacy and recognize his selfless service.