This year’s VFW/Ladies Auxiliary State Convention, held at Yankton’s Kelly Inn, had many speakers at its opening session Friday. One in particular stood out: Sen. John Thune was present to give a formal opening address.
"I am grateful to be here," he said.
Thune had an uncle in the Navy who was stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.
This family story has prompted Thune to be invested in veteran affairs, which is especially prevalent given the VA scandals of the recent year.
"The Veteran Choice Act is in the process of being implemented," Thune told the audience Friday. "We want to make sure we’re giving veterans access to full quality care in the most convenient, accessible way."
Despite the VA scandal, usage of its facilities has gone up this year by 18 percent, Thune said, and 75 people in South Dakota have been hired to manage the additional workload.
However, the senator said he wants to make sure that a mistake isn’t made like in Denver, where the VA facility had a $1.7 billion overrun.
"We need to make sure that we’re holding accountable in ensuring that the taxpayer gets the best return on their dollar," Thune said.
This last week, the Defense Authorization Bill was passed in the House, and will be used to fund the country’s military.
"This is a really important time to get national security running," said Thune. "There is no greater priority than protecting and defending the country."
Thune thanked the veterans and their families for the sacrifices they’ve made to keep America safe from outside threats.
"We need to encourage future generations to know that freedom has a cost they must be willing to pay," Thune said.
The VFW/Ladies Auxiliary State Convention will run all day today (Saturday) and conclude Sunday at noon.
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