Opinion: Celebrating the Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is about the patriots who risked everything to establish a new nation based on life, liberty and equality. And on this anniversary of our nation's independence, there's no better time to honor those who continue to defend and serve this great country.
My good friend Sen. John McCain exemplifies this heroism and bravery. Senator McCain served as a Navy pilot during Vietnam, where he was shot down, captured and tortured as a prisoner of war for over five years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." I visited there once with him and saw firsthand the small cell that confined him physically, but never in spirit.
When his father took over as commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific, Senator McCain refused to go home even when given the chance—he wouldn't accept his freedom unless the military code for officers was followed and everyone taken before him was allowed to go back first. It was an incredible act of honor and the same courage and conviction he's held all his life.
This month I got to visit him at his ranch in Arizona. While battling brain cancer, he continues to be engaged in the issues of our time, always a man of grit. I've been reading Senator McCain's new book, and I keep coming back to one of my favorite lines. Writing about the lessons he's learned from Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"—his favorite book—Senator McCain writes, "Defending the dignity of others is never a lost cause whether you succeed or not."
Our Founding Fathers knew this, too—they weren't sure whether or not they would succeed in building a more perfect union, but they knew they had to try. They would never have a true democracy without it.
Today's servicemembers continue that tradition of service, and we must continue to support them. We can start by modernizing G.I. Bill benefits, strengthening funding for veterans' health care, improving mental health care services and passing my bill on burn pits. We should also expand job training and employment opportunities for veterans and their spouses, cut red tape and wait times for scheduling appointments at VA Medical Facilities and work to eliminate veterans' homelessness.
In addition to our heroes in the military, so many other Minnesotans have carried the spirit of service that our founding fathers established. Today I want to celebrate all the Minnesotans who do so much to give back to our communities—whether it's providing relief to people filling sandbags during floods, or running blood drives during times of great need or helping families build not just a new house but a new home. I have always believed that Minnesota's strength comes from both our sense of community and our belief that we have a responsibility to come together and lift one another up in good times and bad.
As Senator McCain has said, "Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself." So let's remember and recognize all those that have served—both on the battlefield and the home field—people who give back to our country every day.
Thank you for your patriotism and happy Fourth of July!