- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2017

Disabled veterans were honored Thursday at the Inaugural Commemoration of the National Day of Honor for American Veterans Disabled for Life, held at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Speakers included Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois Democrat who lost her legs and the partial use of her right arm when a helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.

“The brave men and women wounded in defense of our nation have earned the eternal gratitude of the American people,” Mr. Shulkin said. “The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is testament to this, and the National Day of Honor for American Veterans Disabled for Life is an important opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to recognizing and serving this special group of patriots.”

“Our nation’s veterans living with a disability have made incredible sacrifices for our country, and I’m honored to be a part of this day,” Ms. Duckworth said in her remarks. “These brave heroes risked everything to protect our freedom, and I’ll keep working to make sure our service members and our veterans receive the quality care and support they have earned.”

The National Day of Honor was spearheaded by Florida philanthropist Lois Pope, who also envisioned the memorial itself — the only permanent one of its kind erected in tribute to the 4.2 million disabled American veterans. The memorial was dedicated Oct. 5, 2014, making the anniversary of that date the “most appropriate for all Americans to show gratitude and support for the men and women who continue to bear the scars of war long after the fighting on the battlefield ends,” Ms. Pope said.

“Our wounded warriors have come home from battle missing arms and legs, blind and burned, and permanently traumatized both physically and emotionally,” she said. “Now we finally have an opportunity, a day each year to recognize their courage, sacrifice and fortitude.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, whose son served served eight years as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, was also on hand, as was Paul Rieckhoff, an Army First Lieutenant and Infantry Rifle Platoon Leader in Iraq who is the founder and executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization, and Don Overton, who was blinded in Operation Desert Storm.

“While it is my hope that all Americans experience the Memorial in person, I know that not everyone has the means to come to Washington, D.C.,” Ms. Pope said. “A National Day of Honor for American Veterans Disabled for Life would provide the opportunity for all Americans, wherever they are, to celebrate the heroism of disabled veterans and pay back the debt of honor we owe them for their courage and sacrifice.”

The commemoration also featured a Navy Color Guard, “The President’s Own” Marine Corps Brass Band and children’s chorus from Hoffman Boston Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia.

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