On this day in 2003, U.S. troops "crossed the berm" on the border of Kuwait and surged onward toward Baghdad. Two short weeks later, the regime of Saddam Hussein would fall. However, the battle was only beginning for our nation's war fighters.
As a result of toppling Hussein's governemnt, a power vacuum ensued in the Middle East, drawing some of our nation's most bitter enemies into the fight in an attempt to fill it. Through years of struggles on and off the battlefield, our military men and women have fought through insurmountable odds to finally set a fledgling Iraqi democracy on a path to stability.
Today, we acknowledge the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq, a day that has come to define the lives of millions of brave American men and women, and perhaps changed the perception of an entire generation.
Prior to 9/11, young Americans were often labeled as egocentric, focused solely on personal success at all costs. Still, millions of young men and women of this generation have selflessly raised their right hands, swearing to uphold and defend the Constitution, prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.
To date, 4,259 brave Americans have lost their lives in the conflict, with thousands more suffering life-altering injuries. To these men and women, our nation owes an immeasurable dept of gratitude for their sacrifices. Each of us should take a moment today to pause and reflect on the service of our fallen heroes and our wounded warriors.
In the context of the Iraq War, I wanted to take a moment to address an issue that has raised eyebrows around the military and within veterans' community. Our military men and women have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for the better part of a decade, with many troops serving multiple tours in multiple combat theaters.
Many of us who have worn the uniform during the Global War on Terrorism have witnessed tremendous acts of valor and heroism for which we revere our fellow service members. However, in nearly eight years of conflict, the U.S. military has only awarded five troops with the nation's highest combat award for valor, the Medal of Honor. All awards have been posthumous.
How can this be? To put it into perspective, in eight years of war in Vietnam, 246 American service members were awarded the Medal of Honor, with more than 50 percent of these brave men living to receive their award.
With advances in medical technologies over the last three decades, it seems absurd to me that equally valorous actions would not have occurred on the battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan, with the brave American making it home alive. To suffice, something doesn't seem right here, and we intend to look into it.
But I digress. Today, we must acknowledge the service of our brave men and women who have served in Iraq. If you know an Iraq veteran, shake their hand, thank them, let them know you appreciate their service. I guarantee, it never gets old.