Greg Gadson and Leslie Smith, JR Martinez and Tammy Duckworth, Jason Pepper and Kirstie Ennis...
Unless you are one of their family members or friends, or unless you are professional colleagues or live in the towns in which they reside, their names will have no special meaning to you.
But they should. They are among the four million living disabled American veterans - four million men and women who sacrificed so much in defense of the freedoms and ideals we in America all enjoy and cherish. Four million fellow Americans who came home from battle missing arms and legs, blind and burned, permanently traumatized both physically and emotionally. They left the war but the war will never leave them.
For far too long, far too many of these valiant individuals who wore with distinction and pride the uniforms of our Armed Services have been marginalized and forgotten.
So I was especially gratified to learn that this week the U.S. House of Representatives passed unanimously a resolution sponsored by my Florida friends Reps. Lois Frankel and Jeff Miller that would designate October 5 each year as a day of salute and honor to America's disabled veterans.
The date has special significance to me. Two years ago on October 5, 2014, a radiant sunny day in Washington DC, the President presided over the official dedication of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. I was privileged to have conceived and then spearhead the creation of this memorial, the country's first permanent public tribute to disabled veterans, past and present. Before the thousands in attendance, I said that the memorial should serve to educate all of us, and generations to come, that war is not just about bullets, tanks, and I.E.D.s. War is not just about winners and losers, because in essence we all lose something or someone when nations take up arms against other nations, when humans take up arms against their fellow humans.
It is my hope that Americans young and old visit the memorial and learn that the costs of war far transcend dollars and cents. Long after the fighting on the battlefield ends, the fight continues for our disabled veterans as they struggle to reintegrate into their families, their communities, and society at large. We have a national obligation to recognize their service, and we have a moral responsibility to thank them for their sacrifices.
October 5, the anniversary of the memorial's dedication, will be a day to do just this. Just as it was with the memorial, it has been a dream and goal of mine to have a day to raise awareness and national consciousness to their plight. Moreover, it will be a day when we can collectively express our enduring gratitude to these heroic women and men who despite their frailties and infirmities strive to live as hard-working, productive citizens, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers.
Now the resolution goes on to the Senate, where I have faith it will pass in similar fashion - with legislators from both sides of the aisle coming together in unison to say to Greg Gadson and Leslie Smith, to JR Martinez and Tammy Duckworth, to Jason Pepper and Kirstie Ennis, to the four million living disabled American veterans: Thank you! God bless you! You are forgotten no more!