Last year, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, I joined a congressional delegation trip to visit U.S. troops, including Iowans, deployed in the Middle East. As a former company commander in Kuwait and Iraq, I understand the significance of our elected leaders being on-the-ground in warzones and personally assessing our continued combat operations. It’s an important part of my job as a U.S. Senator and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
 
This visit served as a reminder of the many sacrifices our troops make to defend our freedoms. While I returned home to spend the holidays with my family, the brave men and women deployed overseas spent yet another holiday season far away from home.
 
The same will be true this year—thousands of Americans in uniform will not be home to celebrate the holidays and countless special occasions with their families. For some of the younger troops, this may be their first holiday season away from loved ones. All of these patriots know that the threats to our nation are constant, and they chose to give up the comfort of civilian life to ensure that our country remains safe. We owe these heroes our deepest gratitude.
 
As a nation, we also must recognize their loved ones at home. While our troops are away serving our country, military families face unique challenges. Parents are forced to make decisions without the input of their husbands or wives, and young children often celebrate birthdays and milestones without mom or dad. And when their family member concludes their service, the family is there to support them during their transition back to civilian life, and long after.
 
November is Military Family Appreciation Month, and I am eternally grateful to military families who sacrifice so much and faithfully support our men and women in uniform. They too are our nation’s heroes.
 
In the Senate, I will continue to advocate for military families on issues such as spousal licensure improvements for families who are forced to repeatedly move as part of military life. I will never stop working to improve life for military children so they have the same or better opportunities and benefits for education and health care that children of civilians have.
 
As a combat veteran with over 23 years of service between the Army Reserves and Iowa Army National Guard, I understand what many military families are going through. As we approach the holidays, I encourage Iowans, and all Americans, to take a moment and thank our servicemembers and their families for their service to our great country. I know that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to force many Americans to alter their holiday plans. I hope folks will recognize that this is a very familiar feeling for our nation’s armed forces and their families.
 
We owe it to the soldiers thousands of miles away defending our freedoms to ensure that their loved ones are cared for here at home.
 
A native of Red Oak, Joni Ernst led 150 men and women as company commander in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the first female combat veteran to serve in the United States Senate.
Click here or on the image above for an official portrait of Senator Ernst.
 
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