This week, friends and families across America will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving and share in community with one another.
While there is much to be grateful for, I can’t help but be reminded of those who will sit across the table from empty seats — chairs that used to be
occupied by loved ones who have been deployed overseas or lost in the line of duty.
As a 20-year Navy veteran who served on five ships, I know firsthand the depth of the sacrifice — the courage, selflessness, and deep love of our country — required to answer the call to serve. There were Thanksgivings and other holidays that I missed due to deployments.
I’m not just a veteran — I’m a military parent, too. My son Matthew graduated boot camp the week of 9/11. He was assigned to the USS Roosevelt and deployed to the war zone. That sinking feeling when a loved one sails off to war is just indescribable, but it pales in comparison to the feeling when they return safely home.
Not every parent is so lucky. Our freedom and the values we hold dear do not come without a grave cost. They are hard fought and hard earned. Some pay for it with their lives.
While we can never fully repay the debt we owe our troops, we have a sacred obligation to ensure that we provide a continuum of care for those who answer the call — not just during their service, but after they come home. For too long, our veterans have returned from duty to find they’ve been forgotten.
As a military parent himself, Joe Biden understands that obligation and has dedicated himself to delivering for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. That’s why it was so meaningful that President Biden spent this past weekend visiting with service members and military families at Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, expressing gratitude on behalf of the nation for these patriots who have sacrificed so much to defend our ideals at home and abroad.
President Biden has demonstrated his commitment to our troops not just with words but with action. Last year, he signed the PACT Act — a historic, bipartisan piece of legislation that expands access to VA health care services for veterans and delivers critical resources that ensure it can deliver timely access to services and benefits for all eligible veterans, especially those that have been exposed to dangerous toxins during their military service.
This historic bill has been the most significant expansion of VA health care in decades, and it was made possible by President Biden’s clear-eyed leadership and commitment to delivering for those who have served. Since being signed, it has already made strides in providing veterans across the country with the crucial care they need.
To date, more than 710,000 veterans and survivors have completed PACT Act related claims, and nearly 545,000 PACT Act claims have been approved — evidence that this historic legislation is making a tremendous impact.
But the PACT Act is just one piece of President Biden’s commitment to delivering for our veterans and servicemembers. Since taking office, he has signed into law nearly 30 bipartisan bills that address some of the most important issues facing veterans and military families across the country.
His administration has worked closely with Congress not only to expand access to health care but to address veteran homelessness, reduce veteran suicide, improve access to child and long-term care, advance economic wellbeing, and support education and workforce opportunities for veterans and their families.
President Biden’s world-class leadership as commander in chief is a stark contrast from Donald Trump — who spent his time in office insulting our troops, disrespecting Gold Star families, and undermining our veterans.
Time and time again, Trump proposed extreme budgets that would have gutted Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security benefits for our veterans. He supported cutting a rental assistance program that has helped reduce veteran homelessness across the country and called fallen heroes “suckers” and “losers” — beyond the pale of disrespect.
As Trump sets his sights back on the White House, he continues to show how little respect he has for our military institutions. He’s even supported Senator Tuberville in his monthslong blockade of military promotions — undermining our military readiness and jeopardizing our national security in a time of escalating global conflict.
Now, more than ever, our country needs a commander in chief who respects our troops and understands what it means to lead. President Biden is that leader. He has shown time and time again that he will fight for our troops, our veterans, and our military families.
Come November 2024, we will have his back and do everything we can to send him back to the White House so he can finish the job.
Charley Conrad of Arlington served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy.