On this, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we celebrate the great cause for which thousands of heroes gave the last full measure and stand in awe of the young Americans who answered the call so that future generations could live in freedom and peace at home.
A few weeks ago, in San Antonio, I had the privilege of attending the funeral of Lt. Col. Dick Cole, who had passed away at 103, and was the last surviving member of the Doolittle raid following Pearl Harbor. It was an extraordinary celebration of the courage it took to fly a one-way mission to bomb Japan.
As we celebrated the life of Lt. Col. Cole, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the unified national investment in World War II. We conducted a draft, 9 percent of the eligible men were called into service, we sold war bonds, women took over factories, and Americans—both at home and abroad—made significant sacrifices. We did these things, and more, non-stop for about three and a half years. In that timeframe, we stood with our allies to defeat both the evil Nazi regime and the Japanese, who had aligned themselves with Hitler and launched an attack on Pearl Harbor. When it was over, we brought most of our soldiers home.
The sacrifices Americans made during WWII and the clear mission our nation gave the military got me thinking: what about today? To be clear, the men and women fighting today are every bit as committed, courageous, and effective as those of the greatest generation. We have pummeled Al Qaeda and ISIS, taken down terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Ladin, removed brutal thugs like Saddam Hussein, and kept attacks away from American soil. In doing so, we’ve lost almost 7,000 brave Americans in this conflict – all patriots who fought so we might live in peace and security.
But as we remain embroiled in a battle over 17 years long and counting, the members of our all-volunteer fighting force – and importantly, their families – are increasingly stretched. Many families have endured multiple tours of duty – some as many as 8 or 9 times going abroad in combat situations.
And all of this is increasingly only felt among a small circle of families, less than 1% of the population. We often have military families marrying other military families, and the sacrifices are seemingly felt by a smaller and smaller segment of the population.
Are we invested as a nation? Would most Americans agree, if asked, that we are a nation at war? Is Congress as focused on what we must do to win our current engagements in Afghanistan? In Syria? In Yemen? Now, perhaps, in Iran?
When we ask our men and women in uniform to risk their lives, which, for some, means paying the ultimate price, should Congress not take action to demonstrate our national commitment to the cause to which we are asking them to commit? Of course we should.
Congress should make clear – with a unified, bipartisan voice – what our mission is and how long we believe we’ll be committed to it. We should acknowledge that commitment and take steps to ensure our men and women in uniform have all the resources they need to carry it out.? More, Congress should make the tough choices about providing those resources rather than spending recklessly in the name of our national defense while mortgaging the very future of our children that we are asking the military to defend.
On the eve of D-Day 75 yeas ago on June 5th, General Eisenhower understood the solemn responsibility of the Normandy invasion – writing, “[i]f any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” As we remember those who jumped into gunfire, swam ashore, climbed the cliffs, and did what few have ever done in sacrifice to others – let us reflect on our relative national commitment today. Let us decide as a nation, and as the Congress representing that nation, just how committed we are to the causes we ask of our armed forces and then make decisions accordingly. Our nation has asked for much and these wonderful warriors have given everything asked of them and more. Our nation’s leaders should do the same.