Service is more than just a word to me. It’s a part of who I am.
At 19 years old, at Iowa State University, I joined the Army ROTC program. I went on to spend more than 20 years serving in our military—retiring as a lieutenant colonel. I was blessed with the opportunity to lead some of the best and brightest Iowans in our Army National Guard.
Since serving in uniform, I’ve taken on new roles – first as a county auditor, then a state senator, and now a United States Senator. But throughout all of these opportunities, I’ve carried with me a deep respect and gratitude for my fellow veterans.
Supporting our nation’s veterans shouldn’t be controversial or partisan. During my time in the Senate, I’ve made it one of my top priorities to ensure our veterans are getting the quality care they’ve earned. And I’m proud to have worked hard, with Democrats and Republicans, to make that happen.
Whether it’s increasing access to care for our rural or homebound veterans, protecting the economic security and well-being of our disabled veterans and their families, or pressing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take a hard look at their hiring practices, I’ve continued to work tirelessly to uphold the sacred promise we’ve made to our nation’s heroes. And as long as I’m serving in the Senate, I’m going to continue this fight, because my fellow veterans must have reliable, quality mental and physical care. We simply can’t fail them.
During COVID-19, there have been unique challenges for our veterans, especially our homeless veterans. Without access to some of the most basic hygiene products and the ability to social distance, these homeless heroes are some of our most vulnerable individuals during this pandemic. That’s why I’ve been working across the aisle to increase resources for homeless veterans by allowing the VA to help get these folks the support they need to stay safe as we continue to fight this virus. And while I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, there’s no question we have more work to do to make sure our heroes are taken care of.
Today, on Veterans Day, let’s renew our support for our nation’s veterans. I encourage all Americans to take a moment to recognize the daily sacrifice made by those who have served this country bravely and selflessly. The men and women of our armed forces have given up time with their families, their holidays, the comfort of civilian life, and their livelihoods to protect our nation and defend the freedoms we often take for granted. Let’s make sure they get the support they deserve.
May God bless my fellow veterans and their families, and may they know that today, and every day, I am forever grateful for their service to our sacred country.
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.