November 11, 2015

Udall Honors Veterans, Addresses Groundbreaking of New Fort Stanton State Veterans’ Cemetery

FORT STANTON, N.M. - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall commemorated Veterans Day in Fort Stanton, where he addressed the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fort Stanton State Veterans' Cemetery and thanked New Mexico's veterans for the sacrifices they have made for our nation.

"Today - Veterans Day - we honor all the men and women who served to protect our freedom. We also remember those still serving in Afghanistan and other parts of the world," Udall said. "Every day they wake up far from home. Every day they stand the watch. And they do the job they promised to do. Tragically, some do not come home. We remember them today, and we are reminded of their dedication and their sacrifice. But few truly know the burden they - and their families - have borne. We must always remember the debt we owe them."

In his speech, Udall also recommitted to doing all he can do ensure New Mexico's veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned. "We cannot ask veterans to give their best, and then give them second best in return," he said. "Our veterans honored their commitment. They kept their promise. We must keep ours. Not just with our words on Veterans Day, but with our actions every day."


The following are Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery at the ceremony:

Thank you, Secretary Fox, for that kind introduction. Governor Martinez. Director Eisenbach and Director Holt. I am very pleased to be with you all today.

First, I want to thank all our veterans here. Thank you for your service. I'm also glad to see the students from Capitan High School here, showing your support for our veterans.

Over a half century ago, General Douglas MacArthur gave a speech at West Point. He said, "Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words...dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn."

General MacArthur was speaking to cadets at West Point. But, really he was speaking to all of us. Young and old. Republican and Democrat. Reminding us of the values that made our nation great. The values we all share. The values our veterans risk everything to protect.

Our commitment to the men and women of our armed forces should be just as strong as their commitment to us.

More than 170,000 veterans call New Mexico home. We have a solemn obligation to them - and to their families. Their loved ones shouldn't have to drive hundreds of miles to pay their respects.

Thanks to all of you, they won't have to. This cemetery will make a difference. This has been a long time coming. And it only happened because folks worked together, and would not give up. Local, state and federal all played a part. And so did this great community. I am especially pleased that we secured $5.7 million in federal funding.

The Fort Stanton Veterans Cemetery will provide a final resting place for veterans. It will commemorate their service, and it will comfort their families.

Today - Veterans Day - we honor all the men and women who served to protect our freedom. We also remember those still serving in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

Every day they wake up far from home. Every day they stand the watch. And they do the job they promised to do. Tragically, some do not come home.

We remember them today, and we are reminded of their dedication and their sacrifice. But few truly know the burden they - and their families - have borne. We must always remember the debt we owe them.

That includes our rural veterans. But - too often - they are kept waiting. For health care, and for the benefits they have earned.

That is why I have introduced legislation this week. To bring more doctors to underserved communities. To improve transportation. And to make sure that every dollar goes as far as possible for VA community clinics. None of our veterans - including over 6 million living in rural areas - should be left behind.

We cannot ask veterans to give their best, and then give them second best in return.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for veterans, I will do all I can. I will continue to push Congress to renew and extend the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. And to speed up the disability claims process for veterans.

The men and women who fight to protect our nation should not come home to face unemployment and homelessness. They should get the health care they need, when they need it. We face great challenges. We have a lot of work to do. But working together we can do it.

Our veterans honored their commitment. They kept their promise. We must keep ours. Not just with our words on Veterans Day, but with our actions every day. Nothing I do in the Senate is more important.

Thank you again for inviting me to speak with you. And thank you again to our veterans, and to their families. This is your day. And we are forever in your debt.