We recently celebrated the life of former Senator Bob Dole, an American hero who dedicated his life to serving others. He sacrificed his own safety and almost paid the ultimate price as an Army lieutenant during World War II and, after he was saved, the people of his Kansas hometown rallied to support his recovery needs. He repaid them by serving as their voice in Washington for decades while also reliably advocating for veterans.
We know what makes America truly great are the individuals who answer the call to serve and give unto others. Whether in our nation’s Armed Forces, civic organizations or volunteering in church, there is a role for us all to play to lift up our friends, families and neighbors. In the season of giving, Arkansans truly rise to the occasion to help others and spread the Christmas spirit.
Throughout the state, Arkansans recently demonstrated their appreciation in a budding Christmas tradition honoring fallen servicemembers and veterans by blanketing national and veterans cemeteries with Christmas wreaths.
In Fort Smith, it’s a community affair that begins with a wreath workshop and assembly to prepare the decorations. Over the last decade this has become a staple of the holiday season. The community prides itself on this annual event and each year it continues to grow.
This is a great and meaningful opportunity for families to express their love and for all Americans to show their appreciation for the service and sacrifice of those who are laid to rest there.
Similar efforts are happening in other national cemeteries across the state. The planning begins long before December. The Little Rock National Cemetery had support from numerous volunteers and sponsors to place 18,450 wreaths. Nationwide, more than 2.4 million wreaths were placed on the graves of veterans. We can be proud that Arkansas-based companies were instrumental in delivering wreaths across the state and the entire country.
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in Wreaths Across America events in the past. It’s an unforgettable experience, anchored in the values of remembering, honoring, and teaching the next generation about service and sacrifice, that extends our gratitude to the men and women who fought in defense of our country. Anyoccasion that brings people together to give back to those who answered that noble call is worth taking part in.
It’s an inspiring sight to see so many people committed to supporting this endeavor and giving their time to honor these heroes. Just as important is that we continue our responsibility to our servicemembers and veterans year-round.
Congress recently took action to support active duty members and their families by passing the National Defense Authorization Act. This critical legislation includes a pay raise for our men and women in uniform. It delivers improvements to military housing, makes it easier for military spouses to find employment in their areas of expertise, invests in Arkansas’s role in our national defense and ensures servicemembers have the tools, resources and training to combat threats to our national security.
It also includes a measure I authored to improve Department of Defense mammography services. This will help us to better protect servicemembers, many of whom have a higher risk of developing breast cancer as a result of exposure to burn pits and other conditions, by ensuring access to the medical tests and screenings they need to prevent and treat breast cancer.
I’m proud to advocate for improved care and resourcesfor those who wear our nation’s uniform. This is one of the most fulfilling roles in my job and extends long after the Christmas wreaths have been removed, but the spirit of the work we do on behalf of these men and women is always with us.