On the 11th day of the 11th month, we pay a special tribute to our veterans, honoring those who served in every war since our nation was founded. Whether it was the beaches of Normandy, the hills of Korea, the mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Iraq or right here at home, these extraordinary men and women all heard the call of duty and answered it.
When our servicemembers signed up to serve there wasn’t a waiting line, and when they come home there shouldn’t be a waiting line for the benefits they’ve earned. That’s why we’ve worked across the aisle to modernize the GI Bill benefits for our troops, strengthen funding for veterans’ health care, improve mental health care for our soldiers and ensure that our VA system provides shorter waits and better care.
Our veterans deserve to be treated with the dignity befitting their sacrifice and that also means making sure they have a safe and affordable home.
Our state has long been a leader in addressing veteran homelessness and in 2014, established the Minnesota Homeless Veteran Registry to identify known homeless veterans and connect them with housing and social services — veterans like Mark Kray.
Mark is a veteran of the U.S. Army who spent years sleeping in his Chevrolet Malibu with his wife, Marjorie, moving between highway rest stops and parking lots in the Twin Cities. But because of the Minnesota Homeless Veteran Registry, Mark and Marjorie were able to sign up for a housing voucher and were booked into a hotel until they could find their own apartment.
Through her tears, Marjorie described it as “so overwhelming. It’s like someone waved a magic wand and turned our lives upside-down.”
Since the registry was established, Minnesota has helped more than 1,800 previously homeless veterans find housing. This is impressive progress that, according to Kathryn Monet, chief executive of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, can be “a model for the rest of the country.”
And since taking office, Gov. Tim Walz has continued making this a top priority for the state, pledging to become one of the first states in the country to effectively end veteran homelessness. The least we can do for those who served our country is to make sure they have a home.
That’s why earlier this year, I asked the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to examine whether the VA could benefit from implementing a program similar to Minnesota’s at the federal level.
I believe that when we ask our servicemembers to sacrifice for us in defense of our nation, we make a promise that we’re going to give them and their families the support they need when they come home. It is our sacred duty to do right by those who have done so much for us.
So to all our veterans, whose service has never wavered, our support for you must stay just as strong. There’s no limit to the respect you’ve earned, no cap to the honor you’re due and no time when we won’t be in your debt.
Thank you for fighting for this country and its people.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.