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Insulting our troops for political points

By By Jo Bonner
As Election Day draws near, the campaign rhetoric has certainly heated up and in many instances turned negative. Last week, Senator John Kerry insulted the brave men and women of our armed forces who are serving in Iraq. He later tried to deflect criticism over his remarks and claimed his statement was a botched joke intended to demean the president's intelligence.
Speaking at a campaign rally, the senator told the audience, "You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Days later, after tremendous criticism and pressure, Kerry apologized. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. I am appalled and dismayed that he would stoop so low as to insult the intelligence of our troops in order to score political points over the war in Iraq. His assertion could not be further from the truth.
Our all-volunteer force is comprised of brave men and women who have answered the call to serve their country; they are not serving in the military because they didn't do well in school.
According to the Department of Defense, over 90 percent of military recruits have a high school diploma-a credential held by about 75 percent of their peers.
The House Armed Services Committee released the following statistics last week:
Clearly, the men and women who serve in our armed forces are among the best and brightest of the United States. When I made my second trip to Iraq this past August and had the privilege of visiting with our troops, none gave the impression that they believe they are "stuck in Iraq." We should honor their service and sacrifice-they are bravely fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we never have to fight them here.
This week Americans will pause to commemorate Veterans Day, an opportunity to pay tribute to those who have served in America's armed forces and honor the courage and sacrifice of those who continue to serve today.
It is important to remember and honor the efforts and sacrifices of the veterans of long-ago conflicts, but it is equally necessary that we work to provide the best care and resources possible for our current military veterans.
The House of Representatives has been working diligently on behalf of veterans throughout the 109th Congress. The House has increased veterans spending by 18 percent, an increase of $12 billion, to approximately $78 billion for fiscal year 2007. Veterans medical care funding has increased by 16 percent as well as a 6.3 percent increase for mental health care. The House has passed provisions increasing the cost of living for veterans and survivor benefits by 2.6 percent in fiscal year 2007.
Additional accomplishments in support of veterans include:
Spending to assist our veterans has more than doubled since 1995. In fact, spending has increased from an average of $923 per veteran in 1984 to more than $2,934 per veteran in 2006.
For the men and women who have done so much to protect this nation, I would like to say thank you, not only for me, but for my family, friends, and constituents who continue to live in the peace and freedom for which our troops fought so bravely and continue to defend.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.