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COLUMN — Working to keep promises to veterans

This week, we paused to pay special tribute to all the brave men and women who serve our country and risk their lives to keep us safe. To all our heroes, and to every one of their family members, thank you for your service.

This is my second year celebrating Veterans Day in Congress, and I feel a profound sense of patriotism when I reflect on all that our nation’s service members and their families have sacrificed for our country. Our military families support our service members every day, from long trainings and overseas deployments to holding down the fort at home while their family members are serving abroad. I think about my wife, Christine Riggleman, who goes above and beyond for our family, just as she did when I was deployed overseas with the Air Force after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I proudly served in the U.S. Air Force as an enlisted and commissioned airman between 1992 and 1996. I am a proud Mustang. After four years of service, I was awarded an ROTC scholarship to attend the University of Virginia. After graduation, I continued to serve in the Air Force as an intelligence officer. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was serving in the Air Force at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho with the 366th AEW Wing, 34th Bomb Squadron. Like so many Americans, I will never forget that day. Our squadron deployed immediately following the terrorist attacks. After I returned home from deployment, I went on to serve my country in the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade in Maryland. 

As a veteran, I understand the importance of keeping our promises to our service members, and I am proud to support legislation to ensure their needs are met and they are recognized for what they do.

I co-founded the bipartisan Veterans Education Caucus alongside Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) to provide resources to veterans transitioning from active duty to new careers. The focus caucus promotes policies to protect and improve upon our nation’s student veterans programs and raise awareness of education issues for veterans, to find innovative ways to support economic opportunity for veterans through education, and to provide tangible, bipartisan solutions to improve veterans’ education and economic opportunity.

I also introduced HR 734 to designate the third week in September as Purple Star Families Week. The Purple Star Families Week would be part of the National Suicide Prevention Month and would recognize the families of veterans who have lost a loved one to the tragedy of veteran suicide. This resolution has been co-sponsored by more than 65 members of Congress, and I hope to see it signed into law before the end of this year.

I was honored to receive the “Legislator of the Year” Award from the Virginia Council of Chapters (VCOC) Military Officers Association of America. It was great to meet members of the VCOC’s legislative committee and discuss how our legislative efforts can improve the lives of veterans in Virginia and beyond.  

From defending our nation overseas to representing the 5th District of Virginia in Congress, service to others is a pillar of who I am. I am honored to represent you in Congress.

Denver Riggleman represents Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached by visiting https://riggleman.house.gov/ or by phone at (434) 973-9631.