When the calendar flips to November, it is inspiring to see communities throughout the Third District host ceremonies and parades to honor the Nebraskans who have served our country. In Congress, we are focused on demonstrating the gratitude of a nation by ensuring our veterans, the men and women currently serving, and their families receive the care and recognition they deserve.
Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon has introduced the Gold Star Family Support and Installation Access Act to strengthen our commitment to the loved ones of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This legislation ensures Gold Star Families have lifetime access to military installations and allows remarried Gold Star spouses to keep their benefits for as long as they have dependent children at home.
As a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General, Congressman Bacon knows the importance of caring for military families, and I am glad to join him in this effort by cosponsoring the bill.
I am also a cosponsor of recently-introduced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the crew of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which sunk in minutes after being struck by Japanese torpedoes following a covert operation to bring atomic bomb components to Tinian during World War II. An estimated 900 of the 1,197 men onboard made it into the water alive, and after enduring four days of temperature extremes in shark-infested waters, only 317 lived to be rescued.
Dale Krueger of Wayne is one of fewer than 20 U.S.S. Indianapolis survivors alive today. Through the years, multiple Nebraska reporters have profiled his incredible story, describing how he clung to a large net after the ship went down – while also clinging to the hope of being found and brought to safety. Clarence Hupka of Cook, another brave survivor of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, passed away only days ago on Oct. 29.
I hesitate to ask anything more of our veterans, but one request I will make of these heroes is to share their stories. According to the VA, only 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive today, with more than 3,800 of these veterans living in Nebraska. Sadly, we lose an average of 362 World War II veterans each day, along with a growing number from the Korean and Vietnam wars.
This is why I hosted an interactive training earlier this year on compiling veterans’ accounts for the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project. An important way to serve our veterans is to preserve their stories, and it is crucial for current and future generations to understand the cost of freedom. I encourage all Nebraskans to participate in this effort, and if you would like more information on the Veterans History Project, please visit www.LOC.gov/vets or contact my Grand Island office at 308-384-3900.
As in years past, my office will also help collect cards for the Red Cross Holidays for Heroes program, formerly known as Holiday Mail for Heroes. This is a wonderful opportunity to share gratitude and greetings with service members and their families. If you wish to join us in this effort, please drop off your cards without postage to my Grand Island or Scottsbluff offices by Monday, Dec. 4. You can also bring them to any mobile offices or Caseworker in Your Community events hosted by my staff. More information is available on my website at AdrianSmith.house.gov/HolidaysforHeroes.
On Veterans Day, and every day, we honor those who made the selfless decision to defend our freedom. To all Nebraska veterans and their families, thank you for bravely answering the call.