We are veterans of World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of us served in a time when fascism was a threat to our way of life, others marched through the jungles of Vietnam, some patrolled the streets of Baghdad and Kandahar and others protected our national interests right here at home. We all proudly call Montana home and we are grateful for the work Sen. Jon Tester has done on our behalf in the U.S. Senate.
When we asked Tester to represent our voice in the Senate in 2006, the G.I. Bill had fallen behind the dramatically increasing cost of a college education, and the VA wasn’t prepared for the health care and employment challenges returning servicemembers faced when they came home.
Now, due in large part to Tester’s hard work, the post-9/11 G.I. bill is making it possible for thousands of Montana veterans to attend college and become leaders in their communities. And the VA has begun taking real steps toward meeting the needs of the young men and women returning from war.
Tester is personally responsible for nearly quadrupling the mileage reimbursement rate from what it was a few years ago. His efforts are making it possible for our rural veterans to access the care they need. Just this month Tester helped break ground on the Billings VA Clinic expansion after securing the project. And because of his support, the psychiatric hospital at Ft. Harrison has begun seeing patients.
We still have a long way to go. In the next few years, thousands of veterans will return home from Afghanistan. As we write, these brave troops are patrolling the mountains of Kandahar. They’re facing IEDs. They’re hunting down the Taliban. They’re taking care of each other. Now it’s time for us to take care of them.
When our brave men and women return home, they’ll come back to a tough job market. Some will have invisible wounds; traumatic brain injuries from roadside bombs, post-traumatic stress that will make some of their lives almost unbearable. They’ll be coming home as money is running short in every part of the federal budget. Our young veterans need a senator who understands that when the time comes for budget cuts, services for our servicemembers aren’t on the chopping block. They will need a senator who will uphold the sacred obligation we have to those who have selflessly decided to serve. In our view, Jon Tester is the right man for the job.
Andrew Person, on behalf of a group of 14 Montana veterans