September 12, 2020
Earlier this week, I took to the Senate floor for one reason: to express my unwavering support for all Americans who have bravely answered the call of duty and served their country in uniform. I did this because I wanted to make it crystal clear that President Trump’s vile and disgraceful comments about fallen and injured service members does not reflect what our country stands for:
We are profoundly grateful to every American who has answered our nation’s call to serve in uniform, to risk their lives – and in too many instances – to lay down their lives so that we might remain a free people;
We are profoundly grateful to their families who sacrifice so much while their loved ones are away fighting to protect the rest of us and making this a better and more just world;
And we are especially indebted to those families whose loved ones left for war and never came home.
It is a sacrifice that many Americans can barely imagine, but one that has been all too real for millions of families since the founding of our nation.
One of those families was my mother’s family. I never got to meet my mom’s younger brother, Bob Kidd Patton. Bobby – as he was known – was the youngest of five children, born near the coal-mining town of Beckley, West Virginia to my grandparents, Ray and Effie Mae Patton, a Gold Star mother. Bobby was killed in action on October 26, 1944 during a kamikaze attack in the western Pacific on his aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Suwanee. Among the bodies of the ship’s crew who were never recovered was that of our Uncle Bob. On the day of that attack, he was 19 years, six months and 23 days old. My grandparents were never able to see their son again or say goodbye. My sister and I – along with our cousins – would never meet him. Neither Bob Patton, nor his Suwanee shipmates who also perished that day, were ‘suckers’ or ‘losers’ as President Trump has characterized others who answered our nation’s call to uniform.
They were, and remain, heroes.
I was fortunate enough to make it home after serving three tours in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, but 58,000 of my brothers and sisters never did. Their names are inscribed in black granite on a wall not far from the halls of Congress so that Americans will remember their sacrifice. Those 58,000 Americans were not ‘suckers’ or ‘losers’ either as President Trump has described our late colleague, Senator John McCain. They were patriots who, unlike Donald Trump, answered the call of duty.
Honoring those who have served this country – and risked their lives for this country – is among the most sacred obligations any of us have. If we can’t stand up and defend those men and women, then we have no business being here. You can watch my full remarks here.
To the millions of soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, Marines and Coast Guard members who are risking their lives right now, around the world, and have done so for generations, we salute you, we thank you, we thank your families from the bottoms of our hearts.
God bless you, stay safe, come home,