Giving thanks for our military in dangerous times

Published 6:35 am Monday, December 7, 2015

 Thanksgiving is the uniquely American holiday when we gather together with family and friends to reflect on the tremendous blessings we have as Americans and show our gratitude for our loved ones, the bounty of our God-given resources, and the fortune of living in the most free and prosperous nation the world has ever known.

I hope that each of you had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving, and I also hope each of you took time to remember that thousands of brave Americans serving in our military and their families could not spend this Thanksgiving together.

Our servicemen and women and their families make tremendous sacrifices to protect the freedoms we hold so dear, and our nation is grateful for all they do for the cause of liberty.

The events of recent weeks and months are solemn reminders of the peril to which our military personnel are exposed on a regular basis. Much is owed to these heroes who preserve for us innumerable blessings; we owe them steadfast support, strong and steady leadership, resources that protect them and enable them to win the fight, and the quality services they deserve when they return home.

With these commitments in mind, I was pleased to see that the president signed the ,National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 into law last week Congress has passed such a defense bill on a bipartisan basis for 54 consecutive years because it is the principal vehicle for setting the nation’s defense and military policies — which include troop pay and benefits, the provision of resources, and the management of the Department of Defense.

And while I was disappointed that President Obama vetoed this year’s version of the NDAA back in October, I am glad that the president reversed his posture and agreed to sign this critical measure.

Unfortunately, however, I believe the president is continuing to fall short on an even greater obligation to our military — effective leadership in the fight against ISIS.

President Obama continues to be unwilling to recognize that the tactics he has employed to date in the effort to destroy ISIS have not been effective as evidenced by his comments during his meeting last week with French President Francois Hollande in which the president talked about our “progress” and “success” in the fight against ISIS.

The president and his Administration also seem to think that climate change represents a more grave and imminent threat to the world than does ISIS or terrorism. These messages demonstrate a disconnect from the reality of what is happening in our world and are a disservice to the soldiers that the United States sends to defend this nation.

That is why one particular provision in the NDAA is so important — a provision that requires the president to submit to Congress a concrete strategy to defeat ISIS.

We already ask a great deal of our military personnel, but we cannot ask them to put their lives at risk without articulating a goal and a specific strategy for achieving that goal.

It is shameful that we have already lost American servicemen in this conflict without such a strategy, and the recent attacks in Paris, Mali, Lebanon, and Egypt illustrate that the clear and present danger of ISIS and other agents of terror cannot be dismissed.

Our goal and strategy must be thoroughly and openly debated in Congress so the American people have a full opportunity to evaluate what will be required to fulfill our mission. Congress must then choose to authorize this strategy and be accountable to those who are putting their lives on the line.

As we spend this holiday season with our loved ones, please keep our military and their families in your thoughts and prayers, as they are truly our keepers of peace and liberty.

I remain steadfast in my pledge to support them in a way befitting of the immense commitment they make to our great nation.

Robert Hurt, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at his Farmville office at (434) 395-0120.