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Coronavirus

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 18, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WICKER. today.

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Mr. WICKER. Madam President, I am joined on the floor by the Senator from North Carolina, and I think a few additional Members will be coming to talk about Thanksgiving Day and about one of the things that we are most thankful for in this Nation, which is the service of our veterans who have stepped forward in uniform to give us the free country that we enjoy today and the freedoms that we enjoy today-- veterans like my 96-year-old father, who was in World War II, who was recognized at the Ole Miss-South Carolina game just Saturday night as one of the surviving World War II veterans.

So I want to take a personal moment to recognize my dad and people like him who served so many, many decades ago. They kept us safe and defended our most important freedoms, including the freedom that Americans exercised just this month--the freedom to cast a ballot.

I am a veteran myself, and I am a proud veteran. Of course, my accomplishments do not compare with those of my World War II veteran dad's. I am also the proud father of an Air Force major today, Maj. McDaniel Wicker. So being a veteran is a proud tradition in our family. Also, it is a proud recognition that we make as Members of Congress and to take care that the promises we have made are kept to the armed services members who have stepped forward and donned a uniform.

That means making sure, during this COVID-19 pandemic, that federally run retirement homes, like the Armed Services Retirement Home in Gulfport, MS, have the resources they need. It means acting boldly to reform the VA, which we have done, actually, on a bipartisan basis, in recent years, with legislation like the VA MISSION Act and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. These laws have reduced wait times, expanded access to telemedicine and private care, and allowed the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees who have engaged in poor performance. As I say that, I might add, when I talk to veterans who have used the services of the VA, so many times, they are complimentary and profusely generous in their praise of the employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. For those who don't get the job done and perform poorly, we now have the ability, under this important legislation, to get rid of them and replace them with those who will join the majority of the VA employees in getting the job done.

I have also introduced legislation with Senator Kaine to designate September 30 as National Veterans Suicide Prevention Day. It is something on which, again, we have worked in a bipartisan manner down through the Congresses.

This month is not only Thanksgiving month and election month, but it is Military Family Appreciation Month. Showing our thankfulness to veterans also includes showing our thankfulness to the families of our military members. So I am pleased to join my colleagues and yield the floor, in just a few moments, to my colleague from North Carolina.

Just today, Members of the House and Senate are working on the final paragraphs and the final provisions that remain undecided within the National Defense Authorization Act. This year, it will be named after a retiring colleague of ours, Representative Mac Thornberry, of Texas, who did not seek reelection this year. I can tell you that Members of the Senate and Members of this Republican conference are working hard today to make our National Defense Authorization Act a reality again for the 60th straight year and to serve those veterans and future veterans who have done so much to make our country free.

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