by TONY GONZALES
Veterans Day is a day to remember our veterans, past and present, for their service to this country. I was 20 when planes hit the Twin Towers in September 2001. Just weeks after September 11, I landed in Afghanistan. Back then, I couldn’t even mark Afghanistan on the map, and now I had the opportunity to see the world for the first time. I then made several tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Asia. After two decades, I retired as Master Chief Petty Officer. The same young man who enlisted without a high school diploma, or even knowing how to swim, retired to the highest rank in the Navy.
Growing up, my grandfather, Jesus Antonio Pena, was my hero. He only had an 8th grade education, but continued to serve during World War II. He shared with me stories of how the military taught him bravery and camaraderie. I was only one credit away from graduating from high school when he passed away. I was completely devastated, which persuaded me to make the decision to give up and enlist in the Navy at 18.
I take this day to spend time with my fellow veterans and remember those who are no longer with us.
My grandfather symbolized my first understanding of what our military sacrifices, the importance of our veterans, and the characteristics of our military, past and present, stand for. I continue to be influenced every day by my fellow veterans around me, including my wife, Angel. Angel served eight years in the Air Force and is now a Commissioned Officer in the Naval Reserve. She is one of the strongest groups within our veterans community – our female veterans. The women in our armed forces face their own unique challenges, both on the ground and at home, and yet serve at the same caliber as our men in uniform.
Each year on November 11, we honor the service and sacrifice of veterans for this great nation. There is something incredibly unique about those who sacrifice so much to serve our country – who choose to run into conflict in the name of freedom. On Veterans Day, I take this day to spend time with my fellow veterans and remember those who are no longer with us. This day also serves as a reminder of the unwavering support system I have with those who have served with me. The bond you create with the people you serve with can never be replaced.
When it comes to issues that affect our military, veterans, and national security, there are some things you can’t learn from a book – you have to experience them.
I work to foster that same sense of camaraderie every day in Congress to craft real solutions for the American people. I believe it is extremely important to have veterans both on duty and on staff. When it comes to issues that affect our military, veterans, and national security, there are some things you can’t learn from a book – you have to experience them.
This is why I think it is essential for me to provide an overview of my experiences to help push forward meaningful legislation. I use my seat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans to advocate for federal funding to be responsibly allocated to the VA and to ensure our veterans receive the care they have won. In my district in particular, I secured $ 1 million in funding for the Del Rio Tiny Homes for Veterans project, to build and maintain temporary homes for currently homeless veterans. I was also able to get $ 22 million for a new child development center at Lackland Air Force Base and $ 150 million for a new veterans health care center in El Paso.
I want to thank all of the brave men and women who have selflessly served our country so that we can live free. I encourage everyone to take a moment to thank a veteran they may know today and every day.
Tony Gonzales represents the 23rd District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives where he sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee. Congressman Gonzales served in the US Navy from 1999 to 2019, where he was a cryptologist and rose to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer. He has also made several tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Asia.