By Don Walker
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told members of the American Legion on Wednesday that when troops start coming home after serving in Iraq, the nation will say thanks in the 'grandest possible way.'
The California Democrat, the nation's first female speaker of the House of Representatives, told members attending the American Legion convention at the Frontier Airlines Center that the nation, with help from 2.2 million members of the American Legion, must work together to ensure a smooth transition when the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan come home.
'We promise them a future worthy of their sacrifice,' Pelosi said.
Pelosi spoke the day after President Barack Obama told the nation that the U.S. combat role in Iraq was ending after seven years of war. When they come home to restart their lives, the nation must help them, she said.
'Our work will not be complete until every American who has fought for our country abroad can find a job when they come home,' she said.
Pelosi was greeted by applause when she began speaking and was interrupted several times by applause during her speech.
In her address, she made the connection between returning veterans and the need to provide them jobs by reviving the nation's economy through goods and services produced in America.
'It's a patriotic action to say that we want to ensure our national security,' she said.
'Our national security depends on having a strong industrial, technological and manufacturing base so that we can provide our troops what they need when they go to battle and when they train.'
'One way to correct it is to make it in America. Not only to manufacture in America, but to enable the American people and our veterans, particularly, to make it in America. It's a national security issue.'
Pelosi listed a number of issues of importance to veterans that were approved by Congress and signed into law. It begins, she said, with the newest version of the GI Bill of Rights, first passed in 1944. In addition, new laws and regulations now give the Veterans Administration more funding; provide higher rates of reimbursements for veterans traveling to health care; provide tax breaks for disabled veterans; and inject more money to help veterans affected by Agent Orange.
Still, Pelosi said, more work needs to be done. Pelosi said that the nation's and Congress' work is not complete until homeless veterans are cared for; the so-called widows' tax is removed; VA red tape is reduced; and veterans suffering from illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder are treated.
The American Legion convention ends Thursday.