Military Appreciation Month

May 24, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) gave a floor speech for Military Appreciation Month.

 

To watch Senator Blackburn’s speech, click below or here.

 


You can read the transcript recorded in the Congressional Records below or click here.

 

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Madam President, this month is Military Appreciation

Month. It is a month when we let our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines

know just how grateful we are for their service. Madam President, we

are grateful for the service that you gave our Nation in uniform. We

thank you for that.

Tennessee is home to three major military installations and numerous

other Guard installations. For us, Military Appreciation Month actually

lasts all year long.

I would like to start off by welcoming the 101st Airborne Division's

2nd Squadron, 17th Calvary Regiment back stateside following a 9-month

rotational deployment to Korea. We are so happy to have them back home.

In more exciting news out of Fort Campbell, this Thursday, SGM

Veronica Knapp will become the first woman to serve as a command

sergeant major of a U.S. Army division. She will assume responsibility

as the senior enlisted adviser of the 101st Airborne Division.

On behalf of the entire Tennessee delegation, I offer my

congratulations and wish her success in all that is yet to come.

The servicemembers stationed at Fort Campbell have really had a very

busy past year. Starting last March, we began deploying soldiers to

help with COVID-19 response operations across the Northeast, including

members from the 501st Medical Company, the 531st Hospital Center, and

the 101st Division Sustainment Brigade.

Boston and New York City were among the most severely affected areas

in the country. And if you ask the healthcare workers and city

officials in those areas if Tennessee servicemembers made a difference,

they will tell you, yes, without a doubt.

Last year, many of our Tennessee National Guard members also joined

the fight against COVID-19. The 164th Airlift Wing transported

desperately needed PPE all the way from Italy to healthcare workers

across the entire country. The 118th ISR Group, along with five other

Air National Guard targeting units, produced over 70 percent of the

U.S. Air Force's targeting materials, all while providing continuity to

Activity-Duty units.

I want to keep bragging on our Guard members because they really have

made an impact, especially when it comes to getting testing and vaccine

centers up and running. They set up more static vaccine sites than any

other State. As of March of this year, they have set up double the

number of sites that were running in the next most successful State.

Job well done.

They directly helped more than 1 million Tennesseans stay healthy

through the pandemic. It was a great effort, and we thank them for

that.

I am sorry to say that the pandemic wasn't the only natural disaster

Tennesseans had to deal with over the past year. But when tornados

destroyed multiple counties across West and Middle Tennessee, the

National Guard was right there to help. And when blizzards shut down

half the State, the Guard kept water flowing in Memphis, repaired

communications infrastructure for first responders in Rutherford

County, and found shelter for displaced families in Lynchburg and

Manchester.

When you are on the outside looking in on a natural disaster, the

last thing you want to hear is that local officials had to call in the

National Guard. But I will tell you, when you are sitting in the

aftermath, there is no more hopeful sight than a vehicle full of

guardsmen pulling into town ready to help.

That peace of mind, of course, comes at a cost. Our servicemembers go

where they are told to go and do the jobs they are told to do without

hesitation. Why? Because they have accepted that the cost of freedom is

more important than the freedom they sacrificed when they put on the

uniform. Their families have accepted this too. And when you are a

military family, the uniform comes first. This is why every year when

we re-up defense funding, we put special focus on military families and

their needs.

For example, 2 years ago, we established a pilot program to offer

professional licensed reciprocity for military spouses who want to

continue working

after moving across State lines. Last year, we increased funding for

that program.

We also continued our support for the Preservation of the Force and

Families Program, which helps special operators process the

aftereffects of their missions.

Last month, the Presiding Officer and I introduced a bill called the

Military Hunger Prevention Act. This is an incredibly important piece

of legislation that would create a basic needs allowance for low-income

military families.

The reason this is so important is that existing benefits programs

like SNAP and free school lunches include housing allowances and other

military benefits in revenue calculations. Although it is obvious that

this only creates the appearance of higher income, the programs aren't

designed to allow an exception. Once we pass this bill--and I am sure

that we will--these families will be able to use their allowances to

buy groceries instead of relying on food pantries to put dinner on the

table.

This is what we should all be thinking about during Military

Appreciation Month--renewing the commitment we have made to take care

of our servicemembers both on and off the battlefield.

We need to ask ourselves: What are we doing to meet their practical

needs? What are we doing to support their families? What are we doing

to right unintended wrongs?

It is the most important way we can recognize their extraordinary

service to our Nation.

I yield the floor.