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Remembering faults of opponent

5/25/2014

We can almost smell the barbecue, and we anticipate the gathering of friends and family to celebrate the beginning of summer. Memorial Day quickly is approaching. This day conjures visions of hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, baseball games played in the park, and the opening of the local swimming pool. But it is a holiday meant to remember those who, as President Abraham Lincoln said, "Gave the last full measure of devotion" in service to our great country.

We can almost smell the barbecue, and we anticipate the gathering of friends and family to celebrate the beginning of summer. Memorial Day quickly is approaching. This day conjures visions of hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, baseball games played in the park, and the opening of the local swimming pool. But it is a holiday meant to remember those who, as President Abraham Lincoln said, "Gave the last full measure of devotion" in service to our great country.

As a child in western Kansas, Memorial Day began in the brisk morning. My brothers and I gathered iris, peony and rose blossoms, helping my mother place them in small vases. Then we would travel together to the cemetery to mark the graves of those who had served, a long-standing tradition in our community.

My brothers and I walked from grave to grave, vase to vase, studying the insignia on the headstones. On that day, my parents would tell me the stories of my great-grandparents who were Civil War veterans. I learned about my uncles, all of whom served during World War II. And my parents would tell me their World War II stories, my father a sailor, my mother a nurse.

A poet writing about Memorial Day reminds us of the men and women "who kept the faith and fought the fight." Whether it was on the beaches of Normandy, the jungles of Vietnam, or the mountains of Afghanistan, so many have given their lives so their fellow Americans can continue to live prosperous and free.

I, too, served my country in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. As a veteran, I benefited greatly from the G.I. Bill that assisted my first home purchase and funded a large portion of my university studies. Today, I live in a growing and prospering community. My daughters have grown into fine adults. I am one of the lucky ones.

Together, we must do more, much more to repay the sacrifices that were made for the freedoms we enjoy. "The glory theirs, the duty ours," the poet writes. Too often we have failed in our duty. On this Memorial Day, we mourn not only those who gave their lives fighting in foreign lands, but those who died here at home, waiting for treatment. Imagine a veteran suffering, waiting, watching, knowing lack of cooperation and lack of accountability prevent her from receiving the mental and physical health she was promised.

To allow any veteran to perish through joblessness, homelessness, and physical and mental illness should make any American shake with anger.

My opponent, the representative for the First District, has sat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee since 2011. His website says he has been a "leader on the committee to protect health services for our veterans, access to care in our rural areas, and making certain the Veterans Administration is doing the job we charge them with."

After being kicked off the Agriculture Committee, Huelskamp has had much more time to address the issues than any other member of Congress. But on his Twitter account, Huelskamp tweets about the president as a "#DoNothing" for failing to fix the VA, and asks for "#AnswersNow." Huelskamp calls himself a "leader" on the committee, and the people of Kansas voted for him. Where are his answers? If he is "making certain" the VA is working, why does he criticize the administration for its failings?

As a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, I will not stop asking questions and offering solutions. Even before the recent VA reports, I offered my endorsement of veteran rural health reforms such as Project ARCH. In the past week, Huelskamp has been on the news supporting similar legislation. But as recent as January, he was completely unaware of the shuttering of an important VA health center here in Kansas. He has been caught not doing his job, and now he demands the resignation of others.

I do not understand the hypocrisy of representatives who fail in their leadership, then use distraction and fear to shift the blame. I will not stand for it. And this Memorial day, along with the memories of all who have fallen, I will not forget.

Jim Sherow is a Democratic candidate for the First District in the U.S. House

of Representatives.

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