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Sen. Franken Delivers Remarks at Metro State University's Veteran Center Dedication

Wednesday, November 10, 2010  |  Legislative Session: 111th Congress, 2nd Session (2010)

Thank you all. I'm very happy to be here at Metro State for the dedication of the new Veterans Center!

Our nation has been at war for nine years. We are steadily drawing down our troops in Iraq, bringing our participation in the war there to a responsible conclusion. Meanwhile, we have deployed many more troops to Afghanistan as we seek to reverse the momentum in that difficult war.

Through it all, our servicemen and women have performed with unparalleled excellence. And their families have stood by them. They've suffered and sacrificed with them. They too have gone to war.

We owe those young servicemen and women a huge debt. And we start to repay it by making sure they have as many opportunities as possible when they come back. We repay it by helping them make the difficult transition from military to civilian life as smooth as possible.

Minnesota and its outstanding National Guard have led the nation on this front. The Minnesota National Guard's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon reintegration program literally set the standard for how we provide comprehensive reintegration efforts for our returning Guard members and their families.

Education is one of the crucial parts of a successful transition back to civilian life. Educational opportunity is the gateway to so many other opportunities.

The new, post-9/11 GI Bill was designed to open up educational opportunity to as many returning veterans as possible. And it is doing just that. There are elements of it that may need to be fixed, as there are in any new system of that scale and significance, and Congress is working to deliver those fixes. But this legislation has been an important part of making sure historic numbers of returning service members can get quality higher education at institutions like Metro State.

In turn, Metro State is supporting the veterans who make the transition to being college students with this new Veterans Center. It will provide important information on benefits and support services for veterans, and will connect students with providers. But just as importantly, it's a place for solidarity and community, where veterans who share common experiences-experiences that haven't been shared by other students-can come together and support each other. I doubt there's anything more important than that.

Thank you for providing this important new institution. I'm proud to help launch it today.

I also want to recognize and congratulate Specialist Lina Knox and Senior Chief Petty Officer David Urbla, who, I understand, graduated while serving in Iraq.

And I want to remember Metro State graduate Specialist Carlos Wilcox, who was killed in Iraq in July 2009, not long after I took office. Talking with the families of the fallen, and going to those funerals, is the hardest thing I've to do as a senator. Often, on those occasions, I think of the moving words President Reagan spoke about those who died in foreign wars:

"Most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives-the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for their country, for us. All we can do is remember."

We must remember and honor those, like Carlos Wilcox, who gave up two lives serving their country.

Hearing those words, I also think of those who survived battle only to struggle with wounds of war, both physical and mental. Many of them gave up two lives too. For them, we can do more than remember. We can act. We can make a difference.

And you're making a difference with this new Veterans Center. Thank you.


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