Weekly Column

On October 12, 1954 President Eisenhower signed the Veterans Day Proclamation rededicating Armistice Day as a day to honor our veterans of every war.  On this day, I am reminded of all the men and women, friends and families, and mothers and fathers who have served or supported someone who has fought to protect the United States of America. 

I want to highlight the travels of a very special member of Ohio’s 16th district today: Navy veteran James Roy Funderwhite. To hear him tell it, James traveled a long way to find the front lines. He went from a naval base in Hawaii, across the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and through the Panama Canal. Once in the Atlantic, Funderwhite joined General Eisenhower’s convoy of battleships and made his way across the ocean to their destination: the waters off Northern France. 

In June 1944, Funderwhite, an orphan from Pittsburgh turned Navy sailor, found himself a part of Operation Overlord. Under pouring rain, constant pounding from German machine guns, and relentless bombardment from German planes, Funderwhite worked to unload equipment, machinery, and allied troops onto the beachheads at Normandy.

This account is just part of the remarkable interview my office conducted with James a few months ago.  I am so happy we were able to collect, preserve, and honor Mr. Funderwhite’s memory forever within the Veterans History Project.   

The Veterans History project is a program sponsored by the Library of Congress dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making accessible the personal accounts of American War veterans. Under this program, the correspondences, diaries, letters, and interviews will be recorded and available to offer our younger generation a first-hand detailed account of the sacrifice and dedication of our veterans. Furthermore, these submissions offer American citizens a true glimpse of war, from enlistment to the front line, and a look at war’s banalities and harsh realities. Most importantly, this program offers a glimpse of the many sacrifices the men and women have paid for their country; some being the ultimate price.

During the last few months, my office has had the privilege and honor to interview and record the stories of some of the valiant servicemen and women residing in Ohio’s 16th district. Along the way, we have heard stories of the beautiful smells and sights of the islands of Japan, the smell of gunfire off the shores of Korea, and the pressure of landing under munitions and artillery fire in Vietnam.   

Thanks to this project, 5000 of Ohio’s veterans’ personal accounts of war have already been recorded and sent to the Library of Congress. It is our hope that through this program, the memories of American veterans from the Western Front to the Bulge, Grenada, Haiti, the Iraq War, and everything in-between can be collected and preserved for future generations.

In his speech following the Korean War armistice, President Eisenhower spoke directly to America’s veterans saying, “To the widows and orphans of this war, and to those veterans who bear disabling wounds, America renews tonight her pledge of lasting devotion and care.”

The stories preserved by the Veterans History Project are sober testaments to the heavy price paid by our veterans.  On this day, it is appropriate and essential that we pledge our lasting devotion and care to our veterans.  From reintegrating into the workforce to the various and severe afflictions faced by our military members, we Americans have a duty to protect and support our troops who have returned from the battlefield. 

My office has worked hard to enact reforms within the VA to give our veterans the proper treatment they deserve. But while we are proud of the legislation we have sponsored and cosponsored, America still has a long way to go.  It is our profound responsibility to get our veterans the proper treatment and help they deserve.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the words spoken by Eisenhower’s predecessor, President Truman, following the allied victory in Europe. In this speech, Truman spoke directly to the American people concerning the work done by our military. He said, “By their sacrifices, skill, and courage they have saved and exalted the cause of freedom throughout the world. All of us owe you, and to your men of many nations, a debt beyond appraisal.”

To see interviews recorded by my office under the Veterans History Project please visit http://bit.ly/2y8hbFv. For more information on the Veterans History Project visit: https://www.loc.gov/vets/ .

The Renacci Report

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