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Combat veteran shares true cost of war, what Congress can do to honor sacrifice

American Soldiers on Patrol down dusty road

By Concerned Veterans for America

Jessica Villarreal knows the true cost of war. She and her husband deployed to the Middle East, bringing back injuries and illnesses they will carry for the rest of their lives.

Jessica recently wrote in Stars and Stripes about her experiences and what war really means for those who serve:

War is more than the deployments themselves; it is the lifetime of aftermath we warriors must live with, from the aches and pains to the terminal diseases to the battles that rage in our minds.

When our lawmakers choose to send us to war, they know — or at least they should — that these are the consequences of their actions. Honestly, those consequences are probably why lawmakers don’t want to make those decisions in the first place.

Congress has a constitutional duty to declare war and oversee military actions. But for decades, the president and Pentagon have been relying on overly broad and outdated Authorizations for Use of Military Force to conduct military operations. This has meant Congress hasn’t been involved in the conversation about when and where we send our troops.

Jessica is proud of her service, and that of her husband and friends. She calls on Congress to honor their sacrifice by taking back responsibility for overseeing military engagements and keeping troops out of unnecessary harm.

I would serve my country all over again, and I know my husband would, too. Lawmakers should uphold their end of the bargain and own the decisions and consequences of sending men and women like us into combat.

This year, following the 20th anniversary of Congress passing the 2002 Iraq AUMF, members will have an opportunity to honor their constitutional oath by repealing this outdated war authority as part of our annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. Congress needs to step up and do its rightful job — if not for those of us who have already fought, then to ensure that future generations never fight in conflicts unless Congress honors the sacrifices it asks for with action of its own.


Read the rest of Jessica Villarreal’s piece in Stars and Stripes.