The Pryor Times

June 6, 2013

D-Day anniversary and veterans

— On June 6, 1944, when Americans and our allies landed on D-Day, my grandfather was there. He served with the U.S. Army’s 300th Combat Engineers

Papa (Kenneth “Cowboy” Morris) landed on Omaha Beach and fought his way forward. He and his fellow soldiers made it through to the Battle of the Bulge, witnessing far too much death and destruction for one lifetime. Papa is still with us, though he doesn’t say much about what happened on the shores of France. His silence says it all.

This week, we mark the anniversary of the day when Allied troops bravely landed along the French coast on the beaches of Normandy. The invasion, which commenced the drive across Europe to defeat Hitler, came with a high price tag – over 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded.

As we commemorate and honor the bravery and sacrifice of 160,000 Allied troops who landed that day and took on Nazi Germany, we must also continue to keep an eye on a situation here at home.

World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans as well as those fighting for our freedoms today deserve quality health care and their disability claims to be handled in an efficient manner. Reports about claims taking far too long to be processed are unacceptable. Our nation can and must do better.

The over 1,400 employees at the Muskogee VA Regional Office are working to eliminate the backlog of cases in Oklahoma. Additionally over 6,000 claims have also been processed in the Muskogee office for veterans in other states in order to reduce the national backlog of claims. I commend the Muskogee VA Regional Office for their hard work, yet there is still a long way to go.

Veterans from the wars of today – Iraq and Afghanistan – need our support in not only disability claims and health care, but also good employment when they return from active duty. The veterans of today’s wars are also reservists and National Guardsmen and women who must drop their civilian life to serve their country for a year or often more. Sometimes it is very difficult to come back to the same economic situation you had before deployment.

Initiatives to hire veterans are an excellent idea and I always encourage people to hire these men and women. I have hired two combat veterans in my office. They are dedicated employees whose devotion to service benefits the entire 2nd District. One of these men, Jason Self, handles casework on behalf of veterans in our district. The second is Trevor Shanklin, a field representative for the southern part of our district.

At 11 a.m. on June 6, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices that thousands of Allied soldiers made on wind-swept beaches far from their own homes. I can’t help but imagine that on June 6, 1944, Papa was thinking of his family and hoping he survived the battle so he could return home to Oklahoma.

General Eisenhower’s message to the troops headed for Normandy is one we should remember as well.

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you…..I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”

And, as grateful Americans, we should accept nothing less than fulfilling the promises this nation made to its veterans.