Senate Launches Caucus For Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans

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Photo by Capt. Chad Nixon

The Senate launched the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Caucus on Aug. 5 with the goal of building a legislative force on veterans and military issues. Among the caucus’ primary concerns are veteran employment and the performance of the Department of Veterans Affairs, reports Military Times. The caucus’ founders include senators. Kirsten Gillibrand, the co-chairs of the Congressional Veterans’ Job Caucus, Mark Kirk, and Joe Manchin, as well as Joni Ernst, an Iraq War veteran and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard.


“What we want to do is focus on the veteran, maybe not what’s best for the VA or for providers, but what is right for that veteran,” said Ernst. “Maybe it makes sense to go to a VA specialist, maybe sometimes it makes sense to go to a private provider. … We have that common interest in doing what’s right for them.”

There are 32 members of the House and Senate who served in the post-9/11 military, with 26 of them deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan. Seventeen members of Congress still serve in the National Guard or the reserves.

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Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor July 18, 2016, for his actions while serving as a Flight Commander assigned to the 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. Then-Maj. Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967. (U.S. Army/Spc. Tammy Nooner)

by Martin Slagter, The Ann Arbor News, Mich.

YPSILANTI, MI - When a brigade of U.S. troops was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army in the Song Tra Cau riverbed on the morning of May 15, 1967, Lt. Charles Kettles volunteered to lead the rescue, and he refused, again and again, to back down when faced with a barrage of gunfire.

His aircraft badly damaged, left spilling fuel, and his gunner was severely injured during the treacherous operation.

But he helicoptered in and out of the battlefield four times, saving the lives of 44 soldiers in a death-defying emergency operation that would become a legendary tale of bravery in the Vietnam War.

Nearly 50 years later, Kettles received the Medal of Honor on July 18, 2016.

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