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Wicker: Mississippian’s World War II heroism inspires today

Note: This item is the weekly Wicker Report of Mississippi U.S. Roger Wicker and is provided by the Senator’s office. Any opinions are those of Sen. Wicker and not necessarily that of this publication.

By Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

We Have Short-Changed Our Military

This month, Blue Springs resident John Roberts received France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor, for his efforts to liberate Europe from German Nazis. A representative of French President Emmanuel Macron expressed the country’s gratitude by presenting Mr. Roberts with the elite decoration. I was honored to be in attendance to support a fellow Mississippian and veteran.

Those gathered at the ceremony heard the story of Mr. Roberts’ service, which began in July 1943. He reported for duty at Camp Shelby before undergoing basic training at Camp McCain. After journeying across the Atlantic, he landed on a Normandy beach a week after D-Day. As foot soldiers, Mr. Roberts and his brothers-in-arms were the tip of the spear, driving Nazi troops toward Germany in a series of grueling battles.

Ultimately, Allied forces were successful, but not without a cost. In a battle near the Rhine River, Mr. Roberts was injured by German mortar and rifle rounds, earning him the Purple Heart. He continued serving for another year and was honorably discharged in November 1945.

The bravery of Mr. Roberts’ generation is breathtaking, and we are blessed that today’s uniformed Mississippians possess similar character. I recently visited with some of those men and women at Naval Air Station Meridian’s “State of the Base” breakfast. We discussed the challenges facing the armed forces in our increasingly dangerous world.

We Have Short-Changed Our Military

Today, our service members do not have enemies in Germany or Japan. But they are up against challenges just as complex as those that Americans faced in World War II. Russia has returned war to Europe. North Korea is building increasingly sophisticated missiles. Iran is underwriting deadly proxy attacks against our forces in the Middle East. China is even more threatening, amassing a huge naval fleet, missile arsenal, and cyber warfare capacity in its quest to topple American leadership.

Regrettably, as these threats multiply, the United States has left our armed forces ill-equipped. One example illustrates this problem. China launched 30 ships last year, while our naval fleet shrank. How can we hope to combat China’s threat in the Pacific with such a disparity?

Give American Troops the Tools To Do the Job

In Congress, I serve as the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and am helping to correct these shortages. I am advocating for funding to build more attack submarines, the crown jewel of our fleet and our best defense against China. My work also supports companies arming our soldiers for 21st century warfare. Many of these are in Mississippi, building ships, radar, artificial intelligence tools, and hundreds of machine components for our military.

I am leading the mission to push back against Pentagon policies that are lowering morale and recruitment numbers. Last year, I passed the MERIT Act, which makes personal excellence, not group identity, the primary cause for promotion in the armed forces. This should help restore the tradition of excellence that makes the service such a badge of honor.

Continuing Our Heroes’ Legacies

Without the heroism of Mr. Roberts and those like him in the 1940s, I would not have been able to enjoy a quiet breakfast with service members at Naval Air Station Meridian in 2024. Americans in uniform are as brave and skillful as ever, but they need the tools to do the job. Failing to equip them jeopardizes the peace for which American veterans fought. As we honor those who bought our freedoms in the past, I will continue supporting those defending us today and in the future.

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