When I announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate earlier this month, I told Montanans I'm running because Washington desperately needs courage and selfless leadership. After seeing this shutdown deny America's military families and veterans their most basic services, Congress sank even further. It's absolutely broken.
Imagine how my wife Janet and I reacted to reports about loved ones of fallen troops -- America's heroes -- being denied basic benefits? During this shutdown, the Pentagon isn't even able to foot the bill for burials, memorial services or related travel costs. Death benefits aren't going to grieving spouses and children.
And it's all because some in Congress are putting their own party ideals ahead of their duty to our nation.
As a former battalion commander in Iraq and former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, I know how important our responsibility is to America's heroes and their families.
In Montana this shutdown, caused by an irresponsible few, is also hurting veterans. Our small state is home to more than 100,000 men and women who served in our nation's military. Many of them struggle to get the quality health care they deserve -- often because of red tape at the VA.
Now the Department of Veterans Affairs says this government shutdown has halted the progress it was making in reducing a backlog of disability and pensions claims. The shutdown has kept home more than 7,000 VA workers who process critical compensation claims. VA offices are closed.
Some politicians claim there's nothing they can do, or that they want to restore some services and not others, or that they refuse to work together. If that's how our military operated, America would never have existed.
My message to these politicians: You are hurting America's veterans and their families. It's a shame. Montana -- our entire nation -- deserves better. They have honorably put service before self. You must do the same.
Why am I running for the Senate? Because I've served with thousands of Montanans over the past three decades who know what true leadership is.
True leadership requires putting your state and nation ahead of yourself. It means having the courage to do what's right -- not what their party leaders tell them to. It means honoring our responsibilities -- especially to our military heroes, their families, our children and our seniors.
I've never been groomed to become just another politician in the Senate. I never thought I'd run for this office when I enlisted in the National Guard as a college freshman.
But I am a proud American who knows right from wrong. And like most Montanans, I know Congress needs more people grounded with true leadership and responsibility.