Veterans take things very seriously. They take their service seriously along with their commitment to their fellow veterans. They are sincere when it comes to honoring the memories of their comrades and they are steadfast in their patriotism and their love for their country.
They are most serious when they tell you that their sacrifices should not have been made in vain. In return, all they ask is that we take them seriously by making good on our commitments to them.
I met my first veterans as a boy when they returned to the Iron Range after World War II, ready to get back to work in the mines and raise families, or take advantage of the G.I. Bill and go to college. That generation of veterans made the world safe for democracy and then led our nation through the greatest economic expansion in American history. Things have not changed much since then.
Today, a new generation of heroes is coming home after duty overseas. On Wednesday we have the opportunity to honor all of these veterans, young and old, and to keep those who continue to serve in our hearts and minds. As we remember their efforts and sacrifices, we must renew our commitment to keep our promises to the nation's 3 million troops and reservists, their families, and 24 million veterans.
We must make sure our returning veterans have the tools they need to succeed in civilian life. The recently expanded post 9/11 G.I. Bill will provide up to 2 million returning warriors the opportunities to get well-paying jobs to help support themselves, their families and the economy.
We need to strengthen health care for our veterans who have made it clear that private insurance is not the answer for their health care needs. This year, Congress approved the largest request for an increase in veteran's services ever made by a president. The increase in the VA budget even exceeded the requests made by veteran's organizations.
That means there will be more than 17,000 new VA doctors and nurses to serve veterans, in addition to a dramatic increase in the number of community-based outpatient clinics. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury care -- so long neglected -- are now receiving the attention they deserve. Our goal is to streamline services and shorten waiting lines so veterans can get best care possible.
Meanwhile, we are taking care of the needs of men and women actively serving in our military. This year, Congress authorized a 3.4 percent military pay increase and approved bonuses for men and women who continued their service under the Stop Loss law. Congress also provided family leave benefits for families of our wounded warriors and authorized improvement to on-post barracks, family housing and new child care centers. In Minnesota I supported improvements at the Air National Guard base in Duluth and Camp Ripley.
An unfortunate aspect of veterans' lives, often overlooked during the parades and speeches on Veterans Day, is the plight of homeless veterans. Congress has created numerous programs that serve homeless veterans who continue to suffer for their sacrifice long after their enlistment has ended.
As a nation, let it be our pledge that when our men and women in uniform return home, that we don't leave them behind. On Veterans Day and every day, let us honor their service with words and actions. We owe our veterans the same level of commitment that they gave to us during their service to our country.
Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District, is a member of the U.S. House.