Senator Carper Delivers Speech on the Senate Floor to Protect Military Families and Ensure U.S. National Security

Today from the U.S. Senate Floor, Senator Carper (D-Del.) highlighted the urgent need to confirm outstanding military promotions, in light of Senator Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) continued hold that prevents top officials from assuming their critical duties. As a 23-year U.S. Navy veteran, and the last Vietnam veteran serving in the Senate, Senator Carper uniquely understands the harm this hold has caused to U.S. national security and to military families nationwide.

Read Senator Carper’s remarks as prepared below and watch the full floor speech here.

As some of my colleagues know, I’m a retired Navy Captain and the last Vietnam veteran serving in the United States Senate.  Today, I want to take a few minutes to share what military service means to my family and to me, as well as to discuss one of the critical lessons we should have learned from the failure to welcome home many of us from our service in the Vietnam War.

I come from a family who, for several generations, sacrificed for our country. My dad and Uncle Jim were Chief Petty Officers in the Navy in World War II. My Uncle Ed was a Marine who served in combat in Korea. And my Uncle Bob was killed in a kamikaze attack on his aircraft carrier in the Pacific when he was 19 years old. His body was never recovered. My grandmother was a Gold Star mother.

In my family, we bleed Navy blue.

My father’s generation returned home to a hero’s welcome at the end of World War II. But that was not the case for those of us who returned home from the Vietnam War many years later.

With little fanfare, no welcome home ceremonies, and no parades, we returned to our hometowns to begin our lives anew.

In the years since then, I’ve witnessed a growing willingness from people across our country to atone for the kind of welcome home my generation received, and make clear that our service is now appreciated.

But for a good part of this year, we have once again failed to treat hundreds of our best and brightest with the respect and gratitude that they deserve and have earned. The situation manufactured by our colleague from Alabama to block the promotion of hundreds of well-deserving military officers is unprecedented, unwarranted, and shameful.

For nearly a year, he has jeopardized our national security and thrust the lives of some 450 military servicemembers and their families into limbo. These families have been stuck, both physically and professionally. They are unable to move to new assignments at home and abroad where they will assume their new responsibilities. Military spouses are unable to find new jobs. And their children are unable to continue their education in new schools.

While I was relieved that the majority of these remarkable men and women were finally able to accept their promotions, there are still 11 four-star officers and their families who are suffering because of the actions of one of our colleagues. By using the lives of our military servicemembers and their families as a bargaining chip, we are failing to learn from history and once again disrespecting the sacrifices that have been made for our country.

What kind of message does this send to our veterans across the country? To our men and women in all service branches who have served for decades? It’s unacceptable.

And what kind of message does this send to countries around the world about how we treat those defending democracy every single day?

Moreover, the actions of our colleague may deter potential recruits from joining the ranks of our military, during a time when we are working especially hard to recruit and retain talented servicemembers.

As we go into the holiday season, every military family deserves peace of mind. Yet today, there are still 11 extremely deserving and well-qualified officers whose families continue to face uncertainty.

I’ll repeat: It is unacceptable. It is unwarranted. It is shameful. And it must end.

Today, I urge our colleague from Alabama to think about what’s really at stake. Strong leadership is vital to our national security and we cannot undercut senior leaders of the armed forces without jeopardizing our democracy.

To my colleague from Alabama, let me say this: Please lift your hold, and let’s learn from the mistakes of our past.  Give these military officers and their families the respect that they deserve along with a truly happy holiday and a promising new year.