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Before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health Regarding Veterans’ Health Bills (HR 1197, 2770, 1293, 1302, 1335, 1546, 2734, & 2738 Plus three Draft Bills)

June 18, 2009

Good morning, Chairman Michaud, Ranking Member Brown, and other members of this distinguished Subcommittee. We appreciate your giving Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) the opportunity to testify today on legislation that relates to improving the health care of veterans and issues involving their caregivers. And on behalf of the members and families of VVA, we thank you for the stellar work this Subcommittee has been doing.

We would like first to comment on H.R. 1197, the “Medal of Honor Health Care Equity Act of 2009.” VVA supports enactment of this bill unequivocally. We would like to offer a bit of commentary as to why.

Americans are hungry for heroes. We confer this status on people who lead their sports teams to championships to the adoration of their fans: guys who can throw for fifty touchdowns or run for two thousand yards in a season; guys who can rocket baseballs into the stands fifty times a season; guys who score thirty points a game; guys who drive race cars really fast. We tend, too, to overuse this term when we honor men and women in uniform.

In reality, all who serve are not heroes. Yes, they don the uniform and, during times of war or conflict, put themselves in harm’s way. Some are killed. Others are wounded, some grievously. Mostly, though, they are men and women doing the jobs for which they’ve been trained (and oftentimes doing jobs for which they haven’t been trained).

While this gesture – dubbing them heroes – may be understandable, and even commendable, it in some ways diminishes what a hero really is: one who puts his (and as more women serve in the military, her) life in danger, and sometimes loses it, attempting to protect or save the lives of his comrades.

We have heroes – true heroes – who have met this standard. Their heroism, their selfless acts of valor and bravery in the chaos of combat, has been acknowledged with the awarding of the Medal of Honor. Others who have committed heroic acts have been honored with the Silver Star, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross.

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