Kansas Common Sense
Nov 15 2021
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On Veterans Day we come together as a nation to recognize and honor the great men and women who have served our nation. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I led my colleagues in a message to our nation’s veterans.
To our veterans we say: we respect you; we thank you for your service, and we love you.
There is no group of Americans I hold in higher regard than those who have served and sacrificed for our country. Our veterans deserve a system that provides them the care and benefits they need.
As we honor, remember and pay respect to those who have served in our military on Veterans Day and every day, we should also reflect on what we have done and what more we can do to repay our American heroes for their service.
I wrote an article in The Ripon Society’s Veterans Day Special Edition regarding our recent work for veterans in the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We will never know the names of the men who are laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or what kind of lives they might have lived, but we do know what kind of men they were. In service and in death, they put aside their own comforts and ambitions to defend their country and the freedoms we enjoy.
Earlier this year, I helped lead and unanimously pass a bipartisan resolution to honor the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. I was also pleased to assist the Society of the Tomb of Unknown Solider in commemorating this occasion Thursday by helping organize a flag folding ceremony on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol.
This week, Americans also had a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity as they were allowed to lay flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Solider Plaza. Watch the CBS News story here, featuring a Kansas Honor Flight.
This week, it was great to welcome United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno and his team to Wichita to showcase the capabilities of our aerospace manufacturers and demonstrate Wichita as “Air Capital of the World.”
Aerospace manufacturers here in the heart of Kansas are vital contributors to this new era of space.
With the highest concentration of aerospace manufacturing workers in the nation, Wichita is the future of flight, and we have the talent to prove it. Nowhere else in the world can you find a cluster of aviation industry and educational institutions working together to develop the talent pipeline that will sustain the aerospace industry for generations to come.
Following a reception with local aerospace leaders, Mr. Bruno and I met with leading aerospace and aviation manufacturers. We saw their operations firsthand, from manufacturing and supplying parts to assembling complex machined components to working with the specialized metals that make up our nation’s aviation fleet. It was a great day showcasing this talent pool of aerospace manufactures to the ULA team and discussing how local manufacturers can support ULA’s future space launch and aerospace mission needs.
Thank you to Greater Wichita Partnership, Wichita State University, WSU Tech, Dr. Sheree Utash, Dr. John Tomblin, Dr. Rick Muma and Jeff Fluhr for showcasing Wichita’s manufacturing and educational capabilities and for helping make this visit possible. Thank you as well to Maynard, Inc. CEO Justin Miller, The Atlas Group CEO Jim McMullen, Milling Precision Tool Owner and President Joe Scheer, Max Aerosructures Executive Vice President Sean Purcell and C.E. Machine President Brian Eck, and to all the employees we met with on Tuesday and Wednesday for demonstrating to ULA how Wichita earns the title Air Capital of the World.
Finally, thank you to Tory Bruno and his team for taking time to see the incredible work happening in the region and for presenting Wichita with a Vulcan Centaur rocket. Read more about the visit here in KAKE News.
Click here for a video to learn more about ULA's visit.
This week, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a key inflation metric calculated by measuring the average change over time in prices paid by consumers for certain goods and services, rose by 0.9 percent in October and has increased 6.2 percent from October 2020—the largest 12-month increase since 1990. This news is incredibly concerning for Kansas families who have suffered from harmful price increases for months while also seeing wage gains largely negated by inflation. It is imperative that we shore up our supply chain and address contributing labor shortages, while also rejecting additional reckless government spending that could exacerbate our current inflationary circumstance and further hurt Kansas families and their hard-earned paychecks.
It was great to start off my week in the most southwestern corner of the state: Elkhart.
Catching Up Over Coffee
It was great to chat with folks over coffee early Monday morning in Elkhart for a Morton County Listening Tour Stop. I appreciated hearing from area residents about the issues impacting them, including inflation, access to rural health care and agricultural markets affecting farmers and ranchers in southwest Kansas. Thank you to Eva Knelsen and Higher Grounds Coffee House for hosting our conversation.
Visiting Morton County Health System
While in town, I also toured Morton County Health System and visited with CEO Patrick Custer, CFO Karen Hill and hospital staff. We discussed the tremendous challenges they face as a rural hospital, holding an irreplaceable role in providing access to care for their community, and how it navigated the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morton County Health System recently received a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will improve Morton County’s telehealth services by helping the facility acquire both stationary and portable medical examination equipment. I am pleased the grant will assist Morton County’s capabilities in increasing telehealth access throughout southwest Kansas. Ensuring rural Kansans have access to health care is one of my top priorities, and I thank the staff at Morton County Health System for their insight and discussion today.
Meeting with Local Leaders in Tribune
In Tribune, I met with business and community leaders over lunch at the local bowling alley, The Alley Bar. Hearing how the decisions in Washington, D.C. impact Kansans, local businesses and our communities here at home is valuable to my work in our nation’s capital. I listened as they explained the consequences President Biden’s federal vaccine mandates and how federal government overreach is having on their business, and I provided an update on my actions to challenge the vaccine mandates. Like people across the rest of our state and nation, they are concerned about the surging inflation of everything from food at the grocery stores to gas at the pump. I also thanked Dan Epp, editor of the Greeley County Republican, for his many years of service informing the public ahead of his retirement. Thank you to all those who joined, and a special thank you to Steve Mangan and Christy Hopkins for helping arrange the meeting.
Touring Stanton County Municipal Airport
As I headed north, I visited Stanton County Municipal Airport where I met with Airport Manager Jacob Nix to discuss current airport layout plans and key issues, objectives and goals pertinent to the airport’s future development. Stanton County Municipal is county-owned and operated, and the runway plays an important role in connecting rural Kansans with the resources and emergency services they may need. Earlier this year, I announced a U.S. Department of Transportation grant to this airport to help with repairs and upgrades – an investment into the future of our rural airports. Thank you to Jacob Nix, Dale Spory and Brant Peterson for their time speaking with me.
Kansas is home to more than 200 large and small dairy farms that continue to support our local economy and businesses. This week, I had the opportunity to visit J7 Dairy in Tribune to see how this market continues to expand across the state and talk with Ole Johnson and his sons Luke, Landon and Levi about J7’s operations, as well as Steve Mangan about his farm and feed operation.
We talked about the Johnson’s decision to move to Kansas to begin J7 Dairy and the success and opportunities our state has afforded their family’s operation. We also talked about ways to increase demand for dairy products, the benefits of the Dairy Farmers of America facility in Garden City and the potential opportunities of the proposed Hilmar cheese plant in Dodge City.
Our state is one of the fastest-growing dairy states in the U.S., and in 2020, Kansas dairies produced 4 billion pounds of milk. This industry continues to drive part of Kansas’ agricultural and economic output, and I thank the J7 Dairy team and Tribune’s Community Development Director Christy Hopkins for taking time to speak with me.
On Tuesday, I visited Kingman High School where I chatted with students about their curriculum and their extracurricular activities, particularly the effects of the pandemic on their education. I also spoke with teachers about the importance of in-person learning to a well-rounded high school experience and education. I stepped into one of Kingman’s culinary classes, where students were making cookies for Veterans Day.
Kingman High’s football team is still in the state playoffs after winning this week and will compete in the 2A semifinals game for the first time in 49 years this coming Friday. Thank you to Anniston, Ethan, Izabelle and Alasandra for speaking with me, and to Principal Albright for his efforts over the past year to ensure the students of USD 331 are able to learn in the classroom with their peers.
I spent time in Goodland with local leaders Kevin Rasure, Gennifer Golden House and Ron Schiling to tour the ongoing construction of the new Topside Manor Nursing Home. Last year, Sherman County residents voted to support a new 45-bed skilled nursing facility, and it was great to see the facility’s progress thus far. I enjoyed speaking with the Topside Manor Nursing Home Board and management team about how the new nursing home layout will bring a more home-like feel for residents, and I spoke with the construction team about the expected completion date, which is set for early next year.
KCK West Kiwanis Club
It was great to join the Kansas City Kansas West Kiwanis Club on Thursday to discuss the issues important to them. In honor of Veterans Day, our conversations largely dealt with our immense gratitude for the men and women who have served and our work to ensure veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve. We discussed President Biden’s misguided withdrawal strategy from Afghanistan and the impact that has had on veterans who served in Afghanistan as well as mental health resources that are available for veterans. We also spoke about the importance of the federal, state and county partnership that is supporting the completion of the Turner Diagonal interchange and the businesses that have sprung up since its opening a few years ago.
Thank you to Joe Vaught for inviting me to speak and thanks to County Commissioner Jane Philbrook, Sherriff Elect Dan Soptic and Kiwanis President Sandy McMillian for joining the event.
I also appreciated the opportunity to speak at the Atchison Rotary club on Thursday and visit with community members about the issues important to them. As we gathered on Veterans’ Day, we took time to express our gratitude for the men and women who have served in our country’s military and discuss the work I am doing on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to ensure our veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned. We also discussed the impact many servicemembers are facing due to toxic exposure and burn pits. I shared with the Rotary the work I am doing to pass effective and sustainable legislation to help provide care for veterans who are facing severe health effects due to exposure to toxins during military service.
It was great hearing from Jason Smith CEO of Rainbow Communications about the grant he received as part of the CARES Act COVID relief bill to expand broadband to unserved rural areas of our state. The pandemic has highlighted the need for quality broadband service for school, work, and health care, making the work Rainbow is doing to deploy broadband more important than ever.
I also enjoyed visiting with Karen Seaberg, president of the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation, on the progress being made on the Amelia Earhart Hanger Museum.
I was especially grateful to have Nathan Gray, a local Iraq War veteran, join us at the Rotary Club on Veterans Day. Also, thank you to Benedictine President Steve Minnis, Mike Kuckelman, Derek Franklin, Atchison Vice-Mayor Dr. Allen Reavis and Dr. John Eplee for joining. Read more about our conversation here in the Atchison Globe.
Enjoyed spending Saturday afternoon in Manhattan cheering the K-State Wildcats to a 34-17 victory over West Virginia!
It was also great to see KU beat Texas Saturday night on the road in Austin, and even better to see Plainville native Jared Casey make the game-winning catch in overtime. I enjoyed the opportunity to personally congratulate Jared during a phone call. Watch the play here and listen to his parents’ reaction. Rock chalk!
Main streets serve as the heart of so many small towns across Kansas. I enjoyed walking Syracuse’s Main Street earlier this week and speaking with local business owners and checking in with county officials.
I also appreciated my time spent in Larned – home of the Fort Larned National Historic Site – where I spoke with businesses along Broadway, and received updates on local economic development initiatives from city and county officials.
Photo credit: Pawnee County.
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