Congresswoman Nancy Boyda's Memorial Day message:
At a 1945 remembrance ceremony for fallen soldiers, General George Patton offered the words that remain, in my view, the clearest expression of the purpose of Memorial Day. "In my mind," General Patton said, "we came here to thank God that men like these lived, rather than regret that they died."
To thank God that they lived, rather than regret that they died. Memorial Day will always be a day of mourning, but even more than that, it is a day of celebration. We celebrate the American spirit that has driven so many to sacrifice so much. We celebrate the families who willingly sent their sons and daughters into harm's way so that the rest of us could live in peace. And we celebrate the soldiers who still serve today, who even now are brokering peace among families of Sunnis and Shiites or steering their Humvees down dangerous roads.
If we are truly to thank God for these extraordinary men and women, we must show our gratitude through more than a few words at a somber, annual ceremony. We must turn talk into action.
In recent weeks, Congress passed two bills that will demonstrate America's gratitude to our troops, just as General Patton's generation expressed their gratitude after World War II. I hope that this Memorial Day will be taken as an opportunity to advance these bills into law.
Just last week, the Senate passed a provision that I helped author which would abolish the so-called "soldier tax." The tax is an obscure IRS penalty, due to take effect in the 2008 tax year, that would reduce or eliminate the ability of some military families to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Unless the Senate bill is signed into law, 150,000 military families will pay sharply higher taxes next year. The exact increase would vary depending on each family's size and income, but in some cases, it would exceed $4,500 – a harsh financial blow to the soldiers on the frontlines of the war on terror.
In addition to the prospect of increased taxes, today's soldiers must confront the steady erosion of the benefits that America extends to our veterans. Consider the long, slow decline of educational support under the 1943 GI Bill. At one time, the bill fully paid for the education of America's veterans, including tuition, room, board, and books. In the aftermath of World War II, its benefits helped lift millions of American families – including my own – into the middle class.
But the bill's luster has faded after so many years. Its benefits have not kept up with inflation, so today the GI Bill covers only a fraction of the cost of college tuition, and it barely scratches the surface of the other costs of college attendance.
The GI Bill was always meant to be a permanent promise, a contract with our soldiers, a bill of rights for our veterans. Its guarantees must not be allowed to die. Recently I voted in the U.S. House of Representatives to extend the GI Bill's full benefits to the new generation of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill is now awaiting action in the Senate.
On this Memorial Day, I can imagine no more fitting tribute to our armed services than for President Bush and Congress to act quickly to turn the soldier tax relief bill and the new GI Bill into law.
Only by fully supporting our soldiers and veterans, in both our words and our deeds, can America heed General Patton's call to celebrate the sacrifices of our soldiers.