This editorial ran in the Veterans Day edition of the Junction City Daily Union on November 11, 2021.

Each year on Veterans Day, Americans pause to honor and thank those who have served our nation in uniform.

This year, I want to recognize our new generation of veterans – the more than 3 million men and women who have served their country in the two decades since Sept. 11, 2001.

In the days following 9/11, the call to serve was answered by thousands of Americans who stepped up to defend the United States. These men and women left behind their families, friends and careers to protect our homeland. Our country made a binding pact with these men and women when they answered the call, and we must uphold our end of the bargain. It is not only a moral obligation, but it also strengthens the faith our next generation of heroes have in our country.

To better care for this new generation of veterans, I’ve used my role as the lead Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to work to improve mental health care for our veterans. Through a strong bipartisan effort, my bill, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, was signed into law last year, improving research on mental health, implementing new kinds of treatment and helping provide care to previously unreached veterans.

This legislation is a tremendous step forward in reforming mental health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and I will continue working to make certain this law is implemented in order to treat the invisible wounds of war for our veterans.

Whether a veteran is seeking care for mental health or any kind of health care, they should be able to access that care right in their own community. Signed into law in 2018, the MISSION Act allows veterans to seek care outside of the VA rather than travel long distances to the nearest VA facility. In the years since it has passed, I have worked with the VA to ensure the MISSION Act is being implemented in a manner that best serves veterans, especially those in rural Kansas and hard-to-reach parts of the country.

Even amid successes, our work for veterans is never done. For too long, veterans affected by toxic exposures while in the military have had to wait for care or come to Congress to advocate for a change in law to enable them to obtain the care and benefits they need. This patchwork system must end. Veterans deserve a transparent and reliable framework, supported by science, to identify and address the toxic wounds of war.

While I am not a veteran, I watched as many of my high school peers left to serve in Vietnam, most of whom were only a year or two older than me. When I saw the way they were treated when they came home, the disrespect that was thrown at them for answering the call to serve their country, I committed that I would spend the rest of my life honoring those in uniform.

Since I have been in Congress, I have served on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and I remain determined to represent our nation’s veterans to the best of my ability, because there is no group of Americans I hold in higher regard than those who have served and sacrificed. This year, and every year, we thank those who have guaranteed our freedom. To our veterans, we believe in you; we are grateful to you; and we love you.