Honor service members who sacrificed lives

Published 8:43 am Monday, May 26, 2014

Guest Column, by Amy Klobuchar

Memorial Day is about honoring those brave men and women and their families who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. It is a day to show respect and honor those we have lost.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Finding the right way to honor these brave Americans and their families is always a humbling endeavor. How do you really thank someone who risked their life for your freedom? How do you thank the mom whose son or daughter was sent off into service and never returned?

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The truth is, we can’t. We can never truly repay the debt we owe to those we have lost and their families. But what we can do is honor them by remembering those who are still with us. To ensure opportunities are available to our service members when they take off the uniform and transition into civilian life.

Consider Tom Tuccitto of Scandia. Tom was born on Veterans Day in 1948. He served in Vietnam as a sergeant and squad leader. By the time his tour had ended, Tuccitto had been wounded twice in action, earning Purple Hearts. He was also decorated for gallantry with two Silver Stars and for heroism with a Bronze Star.

He returned to Minnesota to become a prominent member of the community. He went to work for 3M for 40 years and became a volunteer firefighter, continuing to save lives. He was active in community service and in supporting youth athletic programs as a coach in football, hockey, baseball and softball. Tom passed away in 2007, but at this year’s Vietnam Veterans Day of Recognition at Forest Lake, a scholarship was given in Tom’s honor.

Tom’s story of service following his time in the military is the example we should strive to achieve with all veterans. Especially today as U.S. forces return home from over a decade of war. Unfortunately, whether it is with education, employment, health care or reintegration, we know our service members face many challenges as they transition out of the military and into civilian life.

While things continue to improve, the unemployment rate for veterans of the post-9/11 wars is still significantly above the national average at 6.9 percent. There is no reason why veterans should face higher rates of unemployment. They are disciplined, dedicated and bring valuable experience to the table. They have life-saving skills that can help keep our communities strong and safe.

We need to close this gap and ensure veterans can transition their skills to continue serving here at home. This includes initiatives such as my legislative proposals to encourage law enforcement agencies to hire veterans by expanding the Troops to Cops program, and to streamline the process for veterans to become paramedics or commercial drivers — jobs that many have already received training for in the military.

Minnesotans have always understood the debt we owe our veterans. Ours is a state where we wrap our arms around the people who serve and sacrifice for us. Let’s keep that tradition strong this Memorial Day and honor those we have lost by keeping our promises to their families and to those veterans and servicemembers still with us today.


U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minneapolis, is in her second term.