Operation Christmas: Thanking Our Troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait, & Jordan | Congressman Lee Zeldin

Operation Christmas: Thanking Our Troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait, & Jordan

December 30, 2017
Press Release
Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin

It was an honor to have just spent my third consecutive Christmas in the Middle East with our nation’s troops and diplomats stationed overseas. In 2015, I joined our service members in Iraq and Kuwait, and in 2016, I visited them in Afghanistan and Qatar. This past Christmas, I traveled to Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Jordan. 

It is not easy for our deployed men and women to spend the holiday season several thousands of miles away from home, having great family and friends missing them around the Christmas Tree or Hanukkah Menorah. For many of our deployed military and diplomatic personnel, this isn’t their first holiday season away from their loved ones. 

It is my highest honor to be able to personally thank all of them for their tremendous sacrifice on behalf of a very grateful nation. Serving them their Christmas Day meals, letting them know how much they are appreciated, and receiving their critical feedback from the ground, is the absolute least I can do to make sure they know how much countless Americans are thinking about them, praying for them, and filled with enormous gratitude for their incredible sacrifice. 

Each and every time I visit our troops abroad, I return with some of the greatest memories of my life and critical knowledge to guide my decisions throughout the halls of Congress. It is the brave men and women I have had the honor to meet over the last three Christmases that further cement my commitment to ensuring our nation’s troops have everything they need to safety and effectively do their jobs and return home. 

Congressman Zeldin celebrates Christmas with NY-1 resident and Marine Corporal Maria Ripis of Farmingville who is stationed at Al Jaber Airbase in Kuwait.

In this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I voted for a 2.4% pay raise for our troops, their biggest pay raise in 8 years. Additionally, this year’s NDAA included a much needed strengthening of cyber operations, funding Department of Defense (DOD) cyber operations at $8 billion, an increase of $1.7 billion from last year. Investing in cybersecurity tools ensures that our troops have the 21st century resources they need to combat ever-evolving terror threats at home and abroad. 

Furthermore, this year, I voted for the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, which provides a total of $658.1 billion for the DOD, including critical resources to defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups. Our nation’s servicemen and women on the ground put their lives on the line each and every day for the freedoms and liberties that make this country the greatest in the world and they deserve nothing less than our full support. 

However, our commitment to our troops continues after they leave the battlefield. When they return home, we must ensure they have our full support in transitioning back into civilian life. In September, I reaffirmed my commitment to ending veteran homelessness, by introducing legislation that helps decrease veteran homelessness through continued funding of the Supportive Services Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Ensuring our homeless veterans have shelter and a safe place to live should never be a partisan issue. Even one homeless veteran is too many. 

Throughout my time in Congress, one of my top priorities has been ensuring our nation’s disabled veterans receive the health care they have earned. In 2017, my legislation to expand care for disabled veterans on Long Island and across the country passed both the House and Senate and hopefully will soon become law. My legislation ensures disabled veterans receive the best and most efficient outpatient services to provide them with the assistance and special attention they need in their day-to-day lives, while still allowing them to maintain their independence through access to Adult Day Health Care. These programs allow veterans to lead a much more fulfilling life and helps keep families together and strong while simultaneously reducing overall health care costs for the veteran. 

These brave men and women answered the call to service and repeatedly put their lives at risk to support and defend our Constitution and ensure the safety and security of our country. I will never stop fighting for our nation’s veterans, our troops on-the-ground, and the families back home who eagerly await their safe return. They have earned nothing less.