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Providing for our Armed Forces

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

With the holiday season fully upon us and the rush to complete last minute Christmas present purchases underway, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, and in the process somehow lose sight of more important things.

This is a blessed season marked by the company of family and friends, a child-like anticipation of presents under the tree, and perhaps even the hope of a midnight snowfall. However, this holiday season, like so many before, there are servicemen and women on the front lines who find themselves far from the comforts of hearth and home. They serve on aircraft carriers in distant oceans, keep the peace on volatile borders, patrol the skies of international hot spots, and their work is difficult, lonely, and often very dangerous. Theirs is a service marked by humility and born of a love of country, and is of the utmost importance in preserving the very freedoms that make the celebration of this season possible.

With that in mind, the House of Representatives took steps to ensure that these courageous men and women have the resources they need to carry out their important missions. We overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which addresses the key priorities necessary to fight terrorism and protect our nation.

This bipartisan legislation provides a 3.5% pay increase for military personnel and it also prohibits increases in their costs for the military health care program, also known as TRICARE.

Additionally, this legislation ensures that our service members have the necessary equipment, weapons and training to complete their missions. The funds authorized by this bill will be used to train U.S. forces, purchase protective gear, repair older equipment, and transport equipment and personnel around the world. Perhaps most importantly, the National Defense Authorization Act includes funding for state-of-the-art Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, a top priority for our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The National Defense Authorization Act also includes important provisions to address the problems experienced by injured service members as they navigate the recovery system after returning home. Specifically, this legislation creates the Wounded Warrior Resource Center to serve as a single point of contact for service members, their families, and primary caregivers to report issues with facilities, obtain health care, and receive benefits information.

As we spend the next several days sharing the Holiday Season with our families and friends, we should pause to remember the sacrifices of all of those who strive to make this nation a better place to live - especially those brave men and women defending our freedoms far from home. I wish them, and all of you, a joyous Holiday season, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.