For generations, American men and women have risked their lives to defend our country on the front lines of battle. Rather than drive to an office each day and go home to their families at night, they work in war zones where danger lurks around every corner. Instead of watching their kid's sports games or dance recitals on weekends, they continue fighting to protect the people they love back home. They are war veterans, and they are America's heroes.
This Veterans Day it's important to pay tribute to the people who answered the call of patriotic duty.
On Memorial Day we honor those who died in battle, but Veterans Day gives us a chance to thank all the veterans who are still with us. The veterans who left home to defend their country, then returned to build a new life.
After surviving the grueling demands of their military tours, they reintegrate into society by getting jobs, starting families and serving their communities.
We often think of veterans as grandfatherly figures who tell us stories of wars fought long ago. Yet we must not forget that there's a new generation of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are only in their early 20's.
Returning veterans are faced with starting a career or reentering the workforce, often times at a disadvantage.
Many find it difficult to translate their military work into job skills that are viable in today's market. The unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars has skyrocketed to 11.3 percent, almost 2 percent higher than the national unemployment rate.
The job market is tight right now for everyone, but is particularly taxing for today's 185,000 unemployed veterans who have returned home to a struggling economy.
This year, the Department of Veterans Services will receive $112.8 billion in funding from the federal government. Out of a $3.5 trillion national budget, the VA receives a fraction of government spending.
We watch as Washington shovels out billions in taxpayer money for bailouts, pork barrel projects and bureaucratic government programs, of which we never see a dime.
Instead of frivolous government spending, let's use that money to create jobs and put people back to work. It's our duty to take care of America's veterans. After fighting for their lives overseas, they deserve more than to be asked to fight for financial stability at home.
Before the federal government drives the country into further financial debt, we must not forget the true debt we owe to the people who fight for our freedom and safety.
I am often humbled by the selflessness of the veterans I meet.
This year, I have the honor of celebrating Veterans Day alongside many great Georgians who have served in the military at events throughout my community. I have been invited to join Linda Williams, Dawson County Chamber of Commerce president, to present the Veteran of the Year award to Dr. Larry Anderson, a local Dawsonville physician.
Dr. Anderson is a Vietnam veteran who returned home to build a successful private practice.
In addition to his service to our country, Dr. Anderson dedicates his free time to serving others in the community. He sees patients at the Good Shepherd Clinic and inmates at the county jail, providing medical exams that they could not otherwise afford. It is the acts of selfless service to one's country and community, much like the ones made by Dr. Anderson, that make veterans such a unique and special part of our society.
I will also be joining students at Robinson Elementary School for their Veterans Day celebration, and offering remarks to the congregation at Christ Fellowship Church in Dawsonville, where they will hold a special Veterans Day memorial service. Its community events like these that keep the true spirit of Veterans Day alive.
As American citizens, we are indebted to the sacrifices made by our country's veterans, young and old, and it is our duty to support them more than one day a year. They have given their time to fight for our freedoms; the least we can do is offer our respect and support every day.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the soldiers and families who were affected by the recent shooting in Fort Hood, Texas.
This Veterans Day, I encourage you to pay tribute to all those who have served in our military by saying thank you.
Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9921 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.