COLUMN: Fighting for America’s Heroes


Fighting for America’s Heroes

In 2004, I was stationed throughout the Middle East as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  While there, I had the incredible responsibility of leading 400 soldiers and contractors, and one of the proudest accomplishments of my life is that each of those courageous men and women returned home to their families. 

However, I know that for many of our nation’s heroes, returning home is a new kind of battle.  Post traumatic stress uses every weapon at its disposal, and too many of our veterans are left to fight against it on their own.  The result: our nation loses twenty veterans per day to suicide while countless more suffer in silence.  

Action is needed.  How we care for those who have protected our ideals shows the best of our nation.  That’s why I am grateful for my Republican colleagues’ commitment and President Trump’s leadership in taking meaningful steps to support veterans’ mental health.  

Earlier this summer, the President launched the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) initiative.  In doing so, he brought attention and public awareness to an issue that disproportionately impacts our veterans, because “suicide prevention is everyone’s business, and that by working together, locally and nationally, we can prevent suicide.”

It is that idea that is behind my bill, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act.  It’s the idea that we owe it to our veterans to work together and explore every possibility that may help them lead the full, healthy lives that they deserve.  This bill would connect veterans experiencing PTS with service dogs, giving them the opportunity to train the dog, and adopt their new canine partner after completing the training. There are soldiers who served under my command who have told me how their lives have been transformed by working with a service dog: they’re able to fly on an airplane, to take their fiance out to dinner – common activities that we take for granted.  It gave them their freedom.

This Administration has helped to turn the spotlight on the men and women who fought for our freedoms, who make this nation all that it is, and Congressional Republicans are ready and able to pass legislation to support them.  I’m proud to have been joined by 188 of my Republican colleagues in passing the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act out of the House of Representatives, and now, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) has taken up the mantle in the Senate.  Republican leadership means that our veterans’ mental health will rightfully remain a national priority and we will continue to work to curb the suicide epidemic.  

Republican leadership means that VA reforms will continue to put veterans first and give them control of their care.  Republican leadership means that we will continue to find ways to cut red tape and streamline access.  Republican leadership means that we will continue to pursue innovative treatment and ideas in order to give veterans the best possible outcomes.  As Battalion Commander, I had a duty to those 400 soldiers and contractors to do everything in my power to get them home safely.  As a Member of Congress, I have a duty to our nation’s veterans to pursue policies that best serve those who have served us.  The President and the Republican Party understand that duty as well, and together we will continue to fight for America’s heroes.