Honoring 9/11 Means Honoring Veterans

In the year that followed the attacks on 9/11, 181,510 Americans enlisted in the ranks of active duty service, and 72,908 joined the enlisted reserves. And now, 20 years later, we are seeing a wave of veterans who served our country facing mental and physical health challenges as they return home to Oregon and nationwide, working to re-enter civilian life. That’s true in so-called “normal” times. 

But as you know, the past year-and-a-half has hardly been “normal” with this public health crisis, a racial justice reckoning and an armed insurrection in our nation’s Capitol. The years 2020 and 2021 have tested all of us at every turn, but on this tragic anniversary, these punishing mental health challenges have landed especially hard on veterans.

I think of my friend India Wynne (they/them pronouns), a Marine veteran, who watched the towers fall in horror on the TV in the chow hall. They served their country proudly only to suffer from PTSD upon returning to Oregon. Now, as a fellow in my office, India advocates on behalf of Oregon veterans and their families to ensure they can cut through the red tape to get the benefits they have earned. 

India has candidly expressed that while the military teaches self-reliance and perseverance, these attributes can have the side effects of the unwillingness to ask for help or admit any kind of weakness. I have been told by veterans again and again: the VA health care available to them is terrific — if they can get it. 

On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, I had the honor of hosting an event with Lines for Life where I got to hear from veterans (including India) about the challenges that they have faced finding the mental health supports they need to make the transition to civilian life.

Back in Washington DC, I am working across the aisle on bipartisan legislation to address barriers to mental health care for veterans and all Americans. I want the legislation to do the following: 

  • Address the behavioral health workforce shortage 

  • Support innovative care integration and access

  • Improve oversight and enforcement of mental health parity laws already on the books 

  • Expand access to telehealth services for behavioral health care

Veterans deserve mental health help for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made for our country. We have to get this done.

Twenty years after the 9/11 attacks I remain grateful for every single service member and first responder who put their life on the line to keep our country safe--both that day and the days, months and years that followed. 


May we never forget the lives lost and selfless bravery in the face of devastation. May we endeavor to do better by veterans like India, who deserve our support today and every day.