Thankful for those who served and those who continue to protect us

By Rep. Mike Michaud | Nov 24, 2010

The holidays are an especially difficult time for the families of Mainers who are deployed overseas. On this Thanksgiving, we all have things that we are thankful for and that are worthy of reflection. But all of us have a shared commitment to our service members, veterans and their families for the sacrifices they’ve made for all of us. Every veteran from every conflict the United States has been engaged in deserves our respect, our thanks and our support.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, where approximately 694,550 members of our armed forces served in-theater along with the forces of more than 30 other members of the United Nations.

On Nov. 17, to mark this important part of our nation’s history, the House of Representatives considered House Resolution 1672, a measure I introduced to commemorate the Persian Gulf War and reaffirm our commitment to the veterans who served in it. I was pleased that it passed the House and received unanimous support.

A cease-fire in the Persian Gulf War was declared by President Bush on Feb. 28, 1991, 100 hours after the ground campaign began. Though it was a short campaign, our nation sustained 383 casualties, and more than 467 were wounded. But despite the fact that the war has now been over for two decades, it is far from over for the veterans who served so courageously there.

An estimated 174,000 still suffer from Gulf War illnesses, including Gulf War Syndrome. These veterans and their families must now wage a campaign of a different sort within the Department of Veterans Affairs. This includes many Mainers, among them Michelle Comeau of Dixfield, who was exposed to toxic sarin gas as a member of the Army National Guard. This led to unbearable migraines that have since rendered her 100 percent disabled. In addition, her two daughters were subsequently born with rare birth defects and have since developed symptoms similar to those their mother continues to suffer from.

Sadly, Michelle and many other veterans and their families across the country continue to suffer. Not enough is known about these illnesses, including whether or not they can be passed from one generation to the next. Because of this, it is critical that the VA continue its research efforts on the illnesses of Gulf War veterans. That’s why it’s important that the resolution Congress passed Nov. 17 recognized an Institute of Medicine report called “Gulf War and Health,” which encouraged a VA task force to identify recommendations to better treat illnesses related to service during the Persian Gulf War, including Gulf War veterans' illnesses.

This Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of the past and on the many Americans who are currently defending our freedom around the world. As a nation, we must continue to honor the noble service and sacrifice of all of our veterans and ensure that we never forget their contributions.

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