Veterans Day: Supporting our Brave, Selfless Service Members

As we honor the bravery and sacrifice of our veterans on this Veterans Day, two veterans in my thoughts are Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts and Corporal Sylvio Chourniard.

Medal of Honor recipient US Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts and his wife Amy.

As one of only nine living service members to receive the Medal of Honor — our country’s highest and most prestigious military honor — for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Pitts of Nashua exemplifies the bravery and selflessness that defines members of the United States military.

The story of his heroic, life-saving actions in one of the bloodiest battles in the war in Afghanistan inspires us all. He demonstrated extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty, with remarkable poise, toughness, and courage when he prevented further U.S. casualties despite sustaining critical wounds.

Corporal Sylvio Chouinard, also a Granite Stater, fought courageously in the Army during the Korean War. For years, Corporal Chouinard was not properly recognized for his valor during a night mission where he sustained injuries, and in September, I was proud to present Corporal Chouinard with the Purple Heart and other service medals that he earned during his service.

Corporal Sylvio Chouinard during his medal presentation ceremony.

Like Ryan and Sylvio, over 100,000 veterans in New Hampshire, and 21 million across the United States, have shown strength, resolve, and devotion to duty in defense of our country and the values that we hold dear. Because of the men and women who serve in our armed forces — and the families who support them — our country is safer, and our freedom is stronger.

We owe it to all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and those who serve today — or have ever served — to continue to work to ensure that our state and our nation are ever worthy of their sacrifice. That requires action and diligence on all our parts, including to ensure that veterans receive their well-deserved benefits in a timely and effective way. I remain deeply concerned about the serious issues that have been raised about the Manchester Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and it is critical that we work to make meaningful reforms there and hold the VA accountable. And it’s more important than ever that we fight to secure a full-service hospital for New Hampshire’s veterans.

We also know that VA facilities across the country have much more work to do to provide women veterans with the quality health care services that they deserve, and I have been proud to stand with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) to fight for better access to quality care and services for women at VA facilities across the country.

One problem we have found is that veterans and their families may not be aware of all the services that are available to them. That is why my office is participating in the “Ask the Question” campaign, and on our website, everybody who says that they need help with a federal agency is asked “Have you or a member of your immediate family ever served in the military?” to make sure we can connect them with the support they need and have earned.

Despite the polarization in Washington, I am encouraged that we passed two bipartisan bills — which the President has signed into law — to help reduce wait times and improve the process for veterans seeking benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and to improve and extend GI Bill benefits granted to veterans, their surviving spouses, and dependents.

These are important steps in ensuring that service members and veterans have the care and support that they have earned, but there is much more work to do.

It is critical that we continue to honor veterans so that they know how grateful we are for their service, that we are committed to honoring that service each and every day, and so that future generations will understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by these heroes and their families.

While we can never fully repay the sacrifices our veterans have made, this Veterans Day, let us recommit to supporting service members and veterans like Ryan, Sylvio, and the millions more across New Hampshire and the country.

This is the official Medium account of U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.