Honoring the Men and Women Serving Our Country This Holiday Season
Guest Post by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
With the holiday season upon us, this is the time of year we gather with our family and friends to celebrate all the blessings we have received. But not everyone has the chance to share the holidays with their loved ones during this joyous time of year. The men and women of our armed forces regularly spend their holiday season protecting our country, and for the past nine years many of our deployed service members have been actively engaged in combating terrorism around the world.
As we join family and friends this holiday season and reflect upon 2010, we shouldn’t forget to give thanks to every man and woman who has served our country, or is serving our country, to keep us safe and free. These brave men and women have nobly served our country so that all of us can live free from tyranny. We must never forget this.
For over a quarter of a millennium, our country’s citizens have defended the core principles of our democracy – principles set out so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson, and embedded in the Declaration of Independence.
He wrote: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These are powerful words – and even more powerful principles. Jefferson’s message stood the test of time and has inspired generations. But we know all too well that living by these principles does not come easily, without pain or a price.
Every generation has fought to preserve our freedom and defend life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And every generation has lost young servicemen and women in that defense.
One important way my office gives back to local veterans is by hosting an annual Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
The event held in my district every year gives local high school students an opportunity to interview local U.S. Veterans and gather first-hand accounts of their experiences. Over the past several years we have had the chance to sit down with local veterans and hear stories from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
In 2008, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview a member of the famed Tuskegee Airman, the first African American military aviators in the armed forces. It was a conversation I will never forget.
After the interviews and materials are collected, they are transported to Washington, DC where the stories will be catalogued at the Library of Congress to be preserved as a part of our nation’s history.
But in a time of war we know that not all of our troops come home safely. Since the war started in Afghanistan in 2001, more than 1,400 American soldiers have been killed. On November 13th, Juan Rivadeneira from Davie died serving our country in Afghanistan. He was 27 years old. He and other soldiers were attacked by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest in Kandahar.
Corporal Jorge E. Villacis, of Sunrise, Florida died December 12th when his unit was attacked by an insurgent with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device while serving in Howz E Madad, Afghanistan. He was only 24 years old.
Both of these young men called South Florida home. Both of these young men answered their country’s call to service. And both of these young men left proud, but grieving family members behind.
Juan and Jorge met at Fort Campbell Kentucky and they were deployed to Afghanistan together in June.
Maybe it was the fact that Juan’s family had roots in Venezuela, and Jorge’s family was from Ecuador. Maybe it was that both of them hailed from South Florida. Or maybe it was that they just hit it off.
But regardless of the reason, Juan and Jorge soon became close friends. In fact, in 2009, Juan and Jorge and their families joined together to celebrate Thanksgiving at Fort Campbell.
I didn’t have the pleasure to know Staff Sgt. Rivandeneria, nor Corporal Villacis. Nor did our families know each other.
Yet, my family, and our nation, and everyone reading this column owes a deep debt of gratitude for the service and ultimately the untimely loss of these two brave young men.
America’s service men and women face great danger and sacrifice to protect our nation and they should be able to count on the full and unwavering support of their government.
As a Member of Congress I will always honor their service and do my part to honor the sacred trust we all have with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America.
I am proud to be an advocate for veterans and service members, and my office is always open to you. Whether you have a question, a comment, or you are having trouble with a federal agency, my office is here for you. You can reach us in Pembroke Pines at in Aventura at 305-936-5724 and in Washington, DC at 202-225-7931. You can also find me on the Web where you can sign up for my e-newsletter, at: http://wassermanschultz.house.gov I’m also on Facebook or on Twitter @DWSTWEETS
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