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Posted by Randy | December 09, 2011
"No religious items (ie: Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."

Those words were included in a memo issued September 14 by Walter Reed Medical Center, one of our nation’s primary medical facilities for thousands of wounded military men and women.  

The policy was brought to the attention of my colleagues and me, along with valid concerns that family members or pastors would not be able to bring Bibles or other religious materials to visit their wounded sons or daughters or husbands and wives. My colleague Rep. Steve King pointed out that “It means a priest that might be coming in to visit someone on their death bed couldn’t bring in the Eucharist, couldn’t offer Last Rites. This is the most outrageous affront.”

Our troops have risked their lives for our freedoms and liberties - including our religious liberties. To deny them this freedom when they return home is deplorable.

This week, I hosted a meeting with officials from Walter Reed regarding the policy. The officials said that the policy was not properly vetted and has been rescinded. The following apology has been posted on their website:

We are in the process of rewriting our policy and would like to offer the following statement:

Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded. We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.

Please know that at admission, all patients are asked for their religious preference and a chaplain associated with their preference visits them regularly to provide spiritual services. In addition, their families may also bring religious material and we will not refuse any religious group entrance.

WRNMMC provides multiple venues at WRMNMC for religious expression and worship. There is daily Catholic Mass as well as Protestant, Hindu, and Muslim services. Eucharist is also available at the bedside. There are weekly Torah studies, multiple weekly Christian bible studies, as well as weekly Qur'an study. Furthermore, chaplains coordinate spiritual needs for those whose faith groups are not represented by staff chaplains (such as Latter-Day Saints, Buddhist, and Christian Scientist).

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center remains committed to supporting the religious preferences of all our patients and we will continue to ensure their spiritual needs are met.

I have requested background information about the policy, how it was implemented without proper vetting, and what forces were behind its implementation. Additionally, Rep. Steve King was featured on Fox and Friends this week to discuss the situation. You can view his comments here.
Posted by Randy | December 07, 2011
It is a marker that defines the Greatest Generation. It is one of the darkest days in the pages of our nation’s history book.  It has indeed become a day that “live[s] in infamy.”   

70 years have passed since the message rang across the Oahu naval base: “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Today, the first-hand experiences from the day are becoming increasingly rare (the youngest survivors are in their late 80s). But as our immediate connection to the day flickers, we are resolved to remember. We are resolved to pay tribute to the members of the Armed Forces and those civilians who died in the attacks, and the subsequent 320,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives in World War II for freedom across the globe. 

As we remember the attacks on Pearl Harbor, I want to share with you some online resources that help tell the story of the day:

Timeline, Videos, Interactive Maps, and Photos
History.com

The USS Arizona Memorial
National Park Service

United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor
National Park Service

After the Day of Infamy - "Man on the Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Library of Congress

The Pearl Harbor Radiogram
National Archives

“Day of Infamy” Speech
National Archives

Stories from the Veterans History Project
Library of Congress
Posted by Randy | November 23, 2011

Last week, I had the opportunity to celebrate America's heroic lineage of veterans and Armed Forces members at a DAR luncheon in Chesapeake. We are grateful for the many years of service represented at that luncheon and throughout Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District.

Here’s a look at the luncheon.






Tell us in the comments section -- who in your lineage has served our nation as a member of the Armed Forces?
Posted by Randy | October 24, 2011
I am happy to share with you that both the nation's largest congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization and the nation's only veterans organization comprised of wounded veterans have put their support behind my resolution, H. Res. 441, that recognizes further cuts to national security funding may cause irreparable harm to United States interests. The American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart have championed the resolution for recognizing that any decision on spending levels should be based upon a strategic determination of threats, capabilities, available resources, and risk.

National Commander, Fang Wong of the American Legion has said that the resolution shows a "willingness to truly meet the commitment to protect vital budgetary resources for our veterans and defenders” and National Commander William Hutton of the MOPH has called legislation "very timely and very much on target."

You can read the letters of support here and here.

While this resolution alone cannot stop the onslaught of looming cuts to our national security budget, it nonetheless sends a clear signal to lawmakers considering further cuts that our national defense will only be weakened and our nation's ability to protect vital interests will be significantly limited. Any decision on spending levels should be based upon a strategic assessment of threats, needed capabilities, available resources, and risk--not budgetary constraints.  Members of Congress would be wise to reject the long-term damage these cuts would inflict on veterans, service members and their families, and our ability to defend U.S. interests.

Learn more about my efforts to ensure a strong defense and a strong America here: www.forbes.house.gov/strongamerica
Posted by Randy | September 01, 2011

I want to share with you this editorial from the Virginian-Pilot that highlights the importance of the current military retirement system.

A Small Price for Freedom

Virginian-Pilot

September 1, 2011 

One of the defining characteristics of military bureaucracy, as any soldier or sailor will tell you, is a disposition toward caution. Safe solutions are unlikely to set off a superior or endanger a career. The downside of that caution, of course, is that it doesn’t exactly encourage innovation.

So the military has, in the military’s way, set up a variety of systems to circumvent its own tendency to play it safe. Among them is the Defense Business Board, chartered to provide “independent advice and recommendations on effective strategies for the implementation of best business practices on matters of interest to the Department of Defense.”

That creates problems of its own. Businesses exist to make profits. The military exists to fight wars - to break things and kill people, to quote the cliché. That difference creates a sometimes stark tension. It can also create major changes.

The DBB, for example, was the entity that recommended the end of Joint Forces Command, which it concluded had outlasted its usefulness. Now the DBB has turned its eye to the military’s pension system, which faces obligations so expensive that it may cripple the nation’s ability to fight.

There’s no dispute: When compared with the private sector, a soldier gets a generous retirement. As soon as age 38, a 20-year sailor can retire at 50 percent of his most recent salary. Health care is covered. Meantime, a military “retiree” is free to find a job or a second career.

Similar retirement benefits don’t exist anywhere else in the public or private sector. That’s because there are no other jobs like military service.

Soldiers and sailors have hazardous duty. People shoot at them. Try to blow them up. They handle dangerous equipment and work ridiculously long hours. They are forced to spend months away from their families in spartan conditions. They must follow orders, including ones given by fools.

They must adhere to strict rules, whether at work or at home. They are required to be physically fit. They must volunteer to live like that for 20 years before they can retire.

In exchange, the military pays a barely living wage, covers housing and food and necessities. And, at the end of 20 years, it promises to pay retirement and medical care and a few other benefits.

That makes the military different. Few businesses today provide pensions, which guarantee a retirement income based on a worker’s length of employment and salary. Businesses instead are more likely to offer 401(k)s and similar programs, which send money to an account to which a worker also contributes.

That money is then invested — usually in bonds or stocks — and the resulting nest egg can be used to finance retirement. If the stock market tanks, the money dwindles. If it explodes, it can mean more money. No retirement amount is guaranteed.

The DBB’s proposal would turn the military’s retirement into something similar, at a time when research shows most 401(k) accounts are going to be inadequate to fund their owners’ retirements. It’s a horrible idea.

If a worker chooses a company with a crummy retirement plan, that’s the way the free market works. He is free to choose another company, or to start his own.

A soldier has no such freedom. What’s more, the freedom of an entire nation depends on making sure military service remains attractive to the nation’s finest volunteers.

The Pentagon’s retirement system could certainly stand reform. Eligibility could be changed and probably should be.

But the men and women who guarantee America’s freedom shouldn’t be placed in the hands of a Wall Street incapable of keeping promises.

Posted by Randy | August 08, 2011

This weekend we received the tragic news of the death of 30 Americans who were killed when a U.S. helicopter was shot down in eastern Afghanistan. The attack marked the deadliest day for Americans in the war in Afghanistan.  Twenty-two of the troops were reportedly from a specialized Navy SEAL Unit based in Virginia Beach.

 

We grieve the loss of these valiant Americans and honor the sacrifice they made while on a mission to rescue fellow servicemen and women. Their courage in advancing the cause of freedom was exemplary and it will not be forgotten. Our prayers continue to be with the families of these service members who will feel the absence of their loved ones long after the news stories have ended. We pray they find peace.

Posted by Randy | July 05, 2011

This weekend on the Fourth of July, I had the opportunity to honor the men and women who have time and again defended the great nation that we are able to celebrate on Independence Day as we broke ground on the Chesapeake Veterans Memorial Pathway.

In 1937, trees were planted by citizens of the city of South Norfolk in memory of their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War I. Over the years, many of these monuments were lost to overgrowth and vandalism, and eventually forgotten.

Former Parks Superintendent Bobby Clifton realized the old memorial and brought the idea of reestablishing the memorial to the South Norfolk Ruritan Club. However, this time the memorial would be reestablished not just for World War I veterans, but for veterans of all conflicts from World War I up to the current day.

The basic memorial pathway will wind through a park, with designated areas for the conflict name and the names of citizens of the City of Chesapeake or the City of South Norfolk who paid the ultimate price on behalf of our nation.

The Chesapeake Veterans Memorial Pathway is sure to be a quiet place to reflect and honor those citizens of Chesapeake and South Norfolk who bravely fought for the freedoms we can celebrate every Fourth of July.

Posted by Randy | June 30, 2011

In one of his last major speeches before retiring as Secretary of Defense, Roberts Gates argued that everything was “on the table” in order to achieve the Administration's mandate to find $400 billion in additional spending cuts to national defense. He said the fiscal pressure we face “could mean taking a look at the rigid, one-size-fits-all approach to retirement, pay and pensions.”

I disagree with the Secretary and the Administration when they propose cutting $400 billion dollars from defense spending over the next decade to solve what is a much broader fiscal crisis.
While I believe we must closely scrutinize every defense dollar we spend, I also believe that the right way to defend our country is for the Department of Defense to fully explain the risks we face and for Congress to work with the Pentagon to determine what we need, how much we can afford and the risks associated with those decisions.  Simply proposing a certain amount to cut is not the right way to provide for the common defense of the United States.

While the Administration is free to make proposals regarding changes to the compensation of our brave men and women in uniform, they must also be prepared to answer tough questions regarding those proposals.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I work hard to make sure we set the necessary policy and provide the necessary funding to provide for our national defense and take care of the men and women who are serving and have served our nation.

Ultimately,
I will continue to ensure that active duty, reserve and retired members of our Armed Forces have my full support and continue to receive the compensation and benefits they deserve as they fight the wars of today and deter the threats of the future.

Just last month, the House of Representatives passed the annual defense policy bill, that National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (H.R. 1540), with my support.  This bill included the following commitments to our men and women in uniform:

·         Providing a 1.6 percent across-the-board pay increase for members of the Armed Forces in 2012.
·         Addressing the problem of the “widow’s tax” by allowing surviving family members of military men and women killed in action to receive compensation from both the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and the Death and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
·         Allowing the Department of Defense to make modest increases to Tricare enrollment fees while it also caps DoD's ability to increase fees beyond cost-of-living adjustments in the future.
·         Adding a statement that Congress recognizes that career military members make extraordinary sacrifices to protect freedom for all Americans and those decades of service and sacrifice constitute pre-payment of the bulk of their premiums. 

Join in the discussion on this issue. Do you believe cutting military retiree pay is a right way to address our broader fiscal issues?

Posted by Randy | June 30, 2011

In one of his last major policy speeches before retiring as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates proposed historic changes to a "rigid, one-size-fits-all approach" to military pay and retirement benefits in order to achieve the Administration's mandate to find $400 billion in additional spending cuts to national defense.  According to the Congressional Research Service, “The military retirement system is a non-contributory, defined benefit system that has historically been viewed as a significant incentive in retaining a career military force.” Some proposals for reforming the system include: vesting retirement benefits after 10 years of service; authorizing the services to make variable annual retirement contributions depending on changing retention and skill requirements; and converting to 401(k) style system under which full retirement pay wouldn’t be available until age 57-60. While the Administration is free to make proposals regarding changes to the compensation of our brave men and women in uniform, they must also be prepared to answer tough questions regarding those proposals.  Ultimately, I will continue to ensure that active duty, reserve and retired members of our Armed Forces have my full support and continue to receive the compensation and benefits they deserve as they fight the wars of today and deter the threats of the future. 

Question of the Week: Do you support reforming the military retirement system as part of the Department of Defense's initiative to find $400 billion more in cuts?

(  ) Yes, I support reforming the military retirement system.
(  ) No, the current structure of the military retirement system is a vital retention tool in the all-volunteer force.
(  ) Other (share your thoughts on my blog)
(  ) I am unsure. 

Have you served or are you currently serving our country as a member of the Armed Forces?

(  ) Yes, I am an active duty service member.
(  ) Yes, I am a veteran.
(  ) No, I am not a member of the Armed Forces. 

Take the poll here.

Find out the results of last week's instaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | June 06, 2011


General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the order of the day, “ Full victory – nothing else, “ before the Normandy invasion.

June 6, 1944 was a pivotal date for freedom across the world.  On this day sixty seven years ago, over 156,000 Allied troops landed on a 50-mile stretch of beach in Normandy to liberate France from Nazi control.  More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircrafts supported the Allied invasion that helped bring World War II to an end.  Although the mission seemed impossible, General Dwight D. Eisenhower charged our military to accept nothing less than full victory.

The D-Day invasion involved Americans from across the United States, but for Bedford, Virginia, D-Day holds special significance.  Bedford, situated in west central Virginia, has earned the distinction as the town that sustained the highest per capita loss of lives on D-Day in Normandy.  On June 6, 1944, the Bedford community, with a total population of 3,200 people, lost 19 citizen soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division of the National Guard.  As a result, Congress chose Bedford as the site for the National D-Day Memorial which was dedicated to memorialize “the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice” of the Allied Forces.

In recognition of the magnitude of the human sacrifice and in tribute to the bravery of our American troops, President Roosevelt offered a prayer on behalf of the nation entitled “Let Our Hearts Be Stout.” The text of the prayer is below:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

"Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

"They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

"They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

"For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

"Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

"And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.”

"Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

"And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

"And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

"With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

"Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt - June 6, 1944