This past weekend I had the great privilege to travel to Iraq to visit with our servicemen and women and see for myself what was happening on the ground. After speaking with our troops, their commanders, and several Iraqi lawmakers, my belief was confirmed that we must redeploy our troops out of Iraq.
Every day our brave servicemen and women face needless challenges that increase the risk to their lives and hurt their ability to complete their mission. It was obvious that our troops are overextended and that our country's resources are stretched dangerously thin. The men and women that I spoke to, many of whom are on their second or third tour of duty, love serving our country and work hard to complete their missions. However, many were upset that private contractors doing the same jobs as men and women in uniform, were getting paid thousands of dollars more. Additionally, they are concerned that they do not have the basic equipment needed to do their job, like body armor, light bulbs for vehicles, and scissors for bandages. In some cases, they said that the equipment that they are provided with is overused and not reliable, significantly increasing the risk to their lives. I was appalled to learn that some service members are forced to share their equipment with recently arriving troops in order to better protect themselves.
Given this situation, I find it troublesome that President Bush insists on escalating the war by sending an additional 21,500 combat soldiers to Iraq. I am not convinced that he will ensure that the additional troops will be provided with the adequate equipment they need to do their job safely and efficiently. As a member of Congress, I strongly support legislation that makes certain that our troops are not only properly trained, but properly equipped. Congress has the responsibility and the authority to protect our men and women in uniform. They deserve no less.
In addition to ensuring that our troops are fully prepared on the battlefield, they deserve the best care available when they return home. The crisis at Walter Reed Hospital highlights the fact that the Bush administration and his Republican allies in Congress have not made veterans the priority they deserve to be. After serving overseas and getting wounded in the service of our country, the very least that we as a nation can do is to ensure that our troops have all the services they need when they come home. This includes culturally competent health care, housing, and education. Those responsible for what happened at Walter Reed Hospital should be held accountable and the congress must take action to make certain that this never happens again anywhere.
I was so privileged to have the opportunity to travel to Iraq and so grateful to meet with just a few of the heroes that are serving our country, including those from Azusa, East Los Angeles, and West Covina, cities that I represent in Congress. My trip to Iraq strengthened my belief that the right course of action is to redeploy our troops out of Iraq. Our men and women in uniform are doing their job and we in the Congress must do ours, so that our troops can come home and receive the care they deserve. I will continue to support our troops and look forward to their redeployment and safe return to family, friends, and loved ones.