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
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
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
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
For example, 2 years ago, we established a pilot program to offer
professional licensed reciprocity for military spouses who want to
after moving across State lines. Last year, we increased funding for
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
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
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.