239 Reasons to Offer Thanks (and Counting)

June 14 never steals the summer spotlight, nestled between its overshadowing sisters, Memorial Day and Independence Day. While these latter holidays rightfully offer our nation a time to reflect and celebrate the sacrifices made to secure our freedoms, they in no way diminish the significance of their middle sibling.

For those well-versed in America’s important dates, the most obvious connection with June 14 is our nation’s flag. Back on that date in 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the red, white, and blue Stars and Stripes, and National Flag Day was established by the U.S. Congress in 1949.

What doesn’t receive as much fanfare is the day’s other highlight.

Exactly two years prior to the American flag’s adoption, the budding country received its first military branch, the Continental Army, which eventually morphed in the United States Army in 1796.

And for 239 years and counting, U.S. Army members have dutifully served the flag with which they share a birthday. Many have fought and come away with permanent scars. Others have fought and given their last breaths — all to achieve liberty and justice for all.

I had the privilege of contributing four years to the Army’s 239 as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. During my time in the Army, I learned how tightly knit the EOD community is, regardless of Armed Forces branch or federal agency. But despite the group’s closeness, it never really had a voice.

Consequently, I co-founded the EOD Caucus in 2011 with my House of Representatives colleague Susan Davis to further legislation that might help these brave men and women.

Each year we welcome these military technicians and their civilian counterparts to Capitol Hill to educate members of Congress about the EOD’s mission and capabilities. This year’s event on June 11, called EOD Day on the Hill, showcased current and retired EOD personnel as well as equipment they use on a daily basis.

In the U.S. Air Force’s press release about our event, it mentioned how the venue contrasted with typical operating conditions for EOD personnel. On Capitol Hill, they worked inside four walls and underneath a roof. Chandeliers lit the room so they could see. The air conditioning kept them cool compared with the bulky suits they use in 100-plus degree temperatures. But most importantly, there weren’t in harm’s way.

Our U.S. Armed Forces members consistently face dangers on the frontlines to shoulder the heavy cost of freedom.

So, join me — whether you say “Hooah,” “Hooyah,” or “Oorah” — in giving thanks. We’ve got 239 reasons and counting.

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