Weekly Democratic Address
May 22, 2020
Hi, I’m Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
Before serving in Congress, I spent 23 years in the military, serving with some of the bravest men and women our nation has to offer.
Men and women who placed the values of our country, the liberty and ideas on which we stand, before their very own well-being; who understood that we are all stronger when we work together to achieve a common good – and when we refuse to leave anyone behind.
I’m going to spend this Memorial Day thinking of all those warriors who sacrificed everything for the nation they loved. I’m going to be thinking about my friends who never made it home from war. I’m going to be thinking about the stories they told about their families and the hopes they shared about their futures.
We can never begin to repay the debt we owe them and their loved ones.
But it’s on us to try.
That doesn’t mean just spending 24 hours once every May reflecting on their memories. It means spending every day trying to lead the lives that actually honor sacrifices that they made in the way that they deserve.
Right now, those of us in Congress can begin to do that by ensuring that our veterans, along with all other Americans, have what they need to stay as safe as possible during this global pandemic.
Because even while Mitch McConnell is trying to slow-walk the next relief package, claiming that he hasn’t yet, “felt the urgency of acting immediately,” the reality is that the folks I’m hearing from aren’t having any trouble feeling that urgency.
And I don’t know McConnell’s definition, but when more than 90,000 Americans, including more than 1,000 veterans, have died in just three months, that certainly qualifies as urgent in my book.
The fact that countless veterans are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of their service, because they were exposed to Agent Orange when serving in Vietnam or exposed to burn pits in Iraq or suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, boy, that sure seems urgent to me.
That’s why I just introduced a bill to slash veterans’ healthcare costs and ensure they don’t have to pay more for vaccines or COVID-19 preventive services than any other insured American.
That’s why we Democrats have been fighting to expand testing and contact tracing, to get hospitals the resources that they need, to boost grant funding for small businesses, including those that are owned by veterans, and to funnel more support into hunger prevention programs like SNAP, which more than a million veterans rely on to survive.
And it’s why we’re working so hard to ensure that every eligible American can register to vote safely, securely, accessibly, and as conveniently as possible. After all, it’s unthinkable that Republicans like McConnell and Trump might refuse to do so – forcing our veterans to choose between protecting their health and exercising a constitutional right their brothers and sisters in arms gave up their lives defending.
Towards the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said that we must always strive to “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan…”
This Memorial Day weekend, as our nation faces a very different crisis, let’s recommit to heeding President Lincoln’s words, for there is no better way to honor the sacrifices of our fallen heroes than by acting in service of others.
Thank you. God bless all of our troops in harm’s way right now. God bless all of our veterans. God bless each and every one of you and of course, as always, God bless the United States of America.