We are back from a lovely Carnival cruise from Galveston, which was a lot of fun except for the long wait to debark followed by the 90-minute trek through Customs. You haven't lived till you've done that with two small children, let me tell you. But we're all home and happy now, and things are coming back to normal. Which includes my blogging, which will resume its usual schedule starting tomorrow. My thanks as always to my excellent co-bloggers, in whose talented hands I always feel comfortable leaving the place for such breaks.
Texas needs two senators who will back our veteransJohn Cornyn failed to stand up for our troops -- I will
By STATE REP. RICK NORIEGA
Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed Sen. Jim Webb's, D-Va., expanded version of the GI Bill, ensuring educational benefits for all service members, including activated National Guard and Reservists who serve at least three months of active duty after 9/11.
Called the bipartisan Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Act, this legislation is of vital necessity for the brave men and women who protect our nation every day, and I applaud the Senate's decision to support the bill. I was able to attend the University of Houston largely due to the assistance of a scholarship provided by the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), so I understand firsthand the importance of providing higher education funding for our troops. My experience with ROTC began my three-decade-long career of serving this country in our nation's armed forces, and every moment of those years has been an honor and a privilege.
Today is Memorial Day, and I can think of no more fitting tribute to commemorate those who serve in the armed forces than the ratification of this new GI Bill.
As a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, I have seen countless acts of valor and heroism performed by our troops. They risk their lives for us daily, asking nothing in return but the benefits they have been promised. The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Act was proposed by Sen. Webb as a means of protecting and increasing the educational benefits for those who have served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001. Like the GI Bill enacted after World War II, this 21st century GI Bill will ensure that our soldiers are able to pursue the American Dream for which they have put their lives on the line to defend.
One of the most important economic policies of the 20th century was the original GI Bill. That first bill has been credited with creating the modern middle class. With the educational benefits offered to them, millions of returning war veterans were able to become doctors, teachers, scientists, engineers, lawyers and artists. The Post- 9/11 Veterans Educational Act will restore benefits to what they once were, boost the economy for everyone and allow another generation of American soldiers to achieve their goals.
Today's veterans deserve the same sort of benefit that World War II veterans enjoyed. It's not only good for the troops and their families, it's good for our nation as a whole, strengthening our economy and our military recruitment.
Unfortunately, my opponent, Sen. John Cornyn, failed to stand up for our troops. Cornyn was one of only 22 senators to vote against the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Act, continuing his history of turning his back on veterans. Adding insult to injury, Cornyn went so far as to condone and encourage a presidential veto of the bill. Webb's GI Bill passed with the support of 75 senators, including Texas' senior Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Texas needs two senators fighting for our veterans and our families. It is reprehensible that Cornyn supports keeping our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but refuses to provide for our soldiers once they return home. As a public servant, as a soldier and as a Texan, I am ashamed of Cornyn's continued efforts to deny our troops the benefits they earned defending the United States.
Sen. Cornyn argues that financing higher education for veterans would encourage soldiers to leave the military to attend college. The notion that we should limit benefits to force our troops to stay in the military is morally repugnant. The knowledge I gained while attending college is instrumental in the work I do as a member of the Texas House of Representatives and as a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard. I believe that higher education should be a reality for any American who wants it, and I am disheartened by Cornyn's desire to deny this valuable right to the honorable men and women of the armed forces. A stronger GI Bill will help military recruitment, attracting America's most capable and gifted volunteers to the military during a time when we need more troops than ever.
While we take today to honor the sacrifices made by the American soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect this nation, let us not forget their dedication and sacrifice every day of the year. Our armed forces deserve our support while they are in service to America and after they return home.
We call these young men and women the "next greatest generation," and given the opportunity to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, I will do everything in my power to make sure they are treated that way.
Noriega, a Democrat who has represented his eastside Houston district in the Texas House since 1999, is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by John Cornyn.