Veterans serving in Congress have a Memorial Day message for Americans

WASHINGTON — Memorial Day is a federal holiday that commemorates the lives of American troops who died in service to the country. While lawmakers across Washington observed the holiday through tribute services and eulogizing statements, many lawmakers who are military veterans gave especially empathic reflections.

There are currently 91 veteran members of Congress, including 17 senators and 74 members of the House of Representatives. As with the broader population, the number of veterans in Congress has declined in the decades after the draft was eliminated after the Vietnam War

That decline, the result of an increasingly professionalized military, has also meant that the burden of U.S. wars has fallen on a shrinking number of American families. Veteran lawmakers are among the highest-profile advocates for armed service members and their families. Many took this year’s Memorial Day to again address issues specific to the lived experience of millions of Americans — and their own.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., served in the United States Army for 23 years before retiring in 2014. She was deployed to Iraq in 2004, where she lost her legs and partial use of her right arm after an RPG hit her helicopter.

Duckworth shared a message Monday, saying that “Memorial Day is a somber reminder that wars are not fought by faceless, nameless troops. They are fought by our neighbors, friends and loved ones,” she tweeted. “May we never stop working to repay those who never made it home and the families who have suffered this unimaginable loss.”

Duckworth is a Purple Heart recipient and served as the assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs before serving in the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw

Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.

In honor of Memorial Day, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, wrote an op-ed for Fox News, tweeting to “celebrate the lives of the fallen today, and take a moment to understand that, for some families, Memorial Day never really ends.”

The article, titled “Rep. Dan Crenshaw: The story of a Gold Star wife,” is a short story “based on the real stories of so many of our friends,” he said in another tweet.  

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