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Remembering Those Who Served and Sacrificed on Memorial Day
This Memorial Day, we pause to remember, to honor and to pay respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I hope we all took time this weekend today to reflect on the service of the brave men and women who fought in defense of our freedoms, our shared values and our way of life. As we reflect on their service this Memorial Day, let us remember what their sacrifice means and commit to living lives worthy of that sacrifice.
Paying My Respects to Kansas Heroes
On Saturday, I began my day by paying respects to those who served our nation at Elmwood Cemetery in Lindsborg, Marquette Cemetery, Forrest Home Cemetery in northern Rice County and Bean Cemetery in Little River.
At the Marquette Cemetery, I ran into Kirk Young, the local American Legion Commander and his family putting up flags. It’s a family tradition they have done for 15 years.
Little River Memorial Day Parade
Later that morning, I participated in the Little River Memorial Day weekend parade. I was pleased to spend time with old and new friends and help Little River commemorate Memorial Day. Thank you to Kendall Hodgson for inviting me to ride with him.
It was also great to meet the grandmother of one of the Kansas students I had nominated to attend West Point.
Paying Respects to Father Kapaun
On Memorial Day, I visited Pilsen – the home of Father Emil J. Kapaun. The church pictured here, St. John Nepomucene Church, was completed in 1915 and is where he was baptized in 1916. Father Kapaun became the first son of his parish to be ordained a priest and also served as an assistant pastor here.
Father Kapaun’s story is one that is well-known in Kansas. After entering ministry, he volunteered for the Army and served as a chaplain in the Korean War. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Battle of Unsan, where he was taken prisoner but escaped to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to starving prisoners. He cared for the sick and injured and saved hundreds of lives on the battlefield and in prison camps prior to his death while a prisoner in May 1951.
Later in the day, I paid my respects to Father Kapaun at his final resting place, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Wichita. For decades, Father Kapaun’s remains were unidentified, but in March of last year, I announced that the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency had positively identified him – the first step in bringing him back home to Kansas. In September, his home Catholic Diocese of Wichita was finally able to hold a funeral Mass and allow thousands of people in Kansas and around the world to pay their respects.
A special thank you to Paul Babich and Father Todd Sheperd for their hospitality. Paul, who served on the Wichita Diocese Historic Commission for the beatification and canonization of Father Kapaun, and Father Sheperd could not have been more knowledgeable and gracious hosts.
Father Kapaun’s story is one that continues to inspire me. One of the first pieces of legislation I introduced as a U.S. Senator was to award the Medal of Honor posthumously to Father Kapaun. On April 11, 2013, the Medal of Honor was presented to Father Kapaun’s nephew and attending family at a White House ceremony. Following the identification of his remains earlier last year, I introduced a resolution honoring Father Kapaun which unanimously passed the Senate in March of 2021. May he rest in peace.
Resthaven Memorial Service in Wichita
I was humbled to join veterans and more than 1,000 local residents at the 64th Annual Resthaven Memorial Day Service in Wichita on Monday morning. It was great to visit with so many of the attendees who came out to honor our fallen heroes. Thanks to Resthaven Cemetery General Manager Mark Hansen and his team for organizing this exceptional event. Special thanks to Commander of the 349th Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base Lieutenant Colonel Maureen Tanner for her inspiring remarks.
My final stop this Memorial Day weekend was in my hometown of Plainville to visit my dad, a World War II veteran. I’m grateful for so many things he taught me, but especially for setting an example for how those in uniform are to be honored.
My arrival coincided with the local crew taking down the flags. Thank you to Mike Toelkes, Dave Toelkes and Tom Nicholas for your work each year to display American flags at the Plainville Cemetery, along with all the Kansans who volunteer their time to do the same at cemeteries across our state.
At certain times and certain places it seems like things are okay. This Memorial Day weekend – the ability to be with so many Kansans that love our state and country and took time to honor those who sacrificed to defend our freedoms – was one of those times. Thank you to everyone who allowed me to join you to commemorate this holiday, for sharing your traditions and for visiting with me.
Statement on Uvalde School Shooting
Robba and I are heartbroken by the display of senseless violence in Texas that took the lives of 19 children and two teachers. We join our fellow Americans in mourning the lives of the children and teachers lost to this act of evil. As the investigation continues, I will be monitoring the situation closely to make certain existing laws are being implemented and receiving the resources needed to help stop senseless violence.
FBI Director Wray Testifies Before My Committee
On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. As the ranking member, I addressed the horrific school shooting and asked Director Wray of ways to better protect our schools, including whether additional resources are needed for legislation I supported, the STOP School Violence Act. This subcommittee has invested millions of dollars in the STOP School Violence Act since its enactment in 2018. These programs support school resource officers, “hardening” of schools, reporting hotlines, threat assessment programs and training for school personnel. The FBI Director must make certain these programs are being implemented and assess whether additional resources are needed.
Additionally, we discussed the bureau’s FY2023 budget request, its counterterrorism work at the southern border and combating violent crime. The FBI has a broad and complex mission, therefore it is imperative that we strike an appropriate balance of fulfilling the bureau’s diverse responsibilities while targeting the highest needs and the greatest criminal threats. I will continue to support innovative and creative resources that help law enforcement engage with local leaders, build lasting partnerships and improve the health of our communities. I look forward to working with Director Wray and my colleagues on the subcommittee to best fulfill the bureau’s resource needs.
The Crisis at Our Southern Border
I spoke on the U.S. Senate Floor regarding the humanitarian, public health and national security crisis happening at our southern border. In April, 234,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border – the highest monthly total in 22 years. The Biden administration continues to be absent in this crisis, and instead of offering constructive policies, they are removing ones that are helping prevent even more people from entering our country. Last week, the court made the decision to require Title 42 to remain in place. Ending it would create an even greater emergency at our border, and yet the Biden administration is appealing the court’s decision.
One thing is for certain – our Border Patrol agents are doing an incredible job. They have a tireless, thankless job as they act as caretakers, law enforcement, medical professionals and so much more. I want them to know they are supported in the Senate, and we thank them for their service to our country.
Closing Loopholes to Keep Our Communities Safe
I also cosponsored Senator John Thune’s Reverse Entry for Migrant Offenders and Violence Expulsion (REMOVE) Act. The REMOVE Act clarifies that the violent crimes of kidnapping and sexual assault are deportable offenses for those attempting to enter or already in the country illegally. Denying entry to migrants convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault is necessary to help keep our communities safe, but a decision from the Supreme Court in 2018 left a loophole in our immigration laws that has allowed those convicted of these crimes to remain in the United States. This legislation will make certain that criminals with these records are kept out of the United States.
Questioning Chief of Naval Operations Regarding USS Wichita
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to hear testimony from Department of the Navy leadership in a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday and Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger testified to our committee on Naval and Marine Corps Readiness. I took the opportunity to express my concerns about the decommissioning of the USS Wichita, a Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship designed for multiple missions, including minesweeping and antisubmarine warfare.
I presided over the commissioning ceremony of the USS Wichita in 2019. I’m concerned that after so much investment in the Littoral Combat Ships that they will be retired after such a short time of use. I’m especially concerned about this because it seems the ships are still very usable for other missions without posing significant risks to our sailors. In March 2021, while working with Maritime Patrol Aircraft from the Dominican Republic, the USS Wichita interdicted smugglers in the Caribbean Sea carrying roughly $17 million of drugs. In response to my question, Admiral Gilday said that instead of completely scrapping the ships they might be transferred to our partners and allies to increase their fleet readiness. I will continue to discuss these plans with the Navy with the hope that the USS Wichita and others in its class remain useful to our maritime security and that the USS Wichita can live up to its motto “Keeper of the Sea.”
Discussing NATO with Finland and Sweden Ambassadors
Finland and Sweden recently applied to become members of NATO, and I joined fellow members of the Senate NATO Observer Group in meeting with the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden on Tuesday. We discussed the process of joining and what obstacles each country may face on the path to membership. It is our mutual hope that all NATO allies will be in accord in time for next month’s NATO summit. As I noted with my colleagues on the Observer Group earlier this month, I welcome the addition of two highly-capable and enduring partners to join the alliance officially.
Hosting the Aerospace Industries Association
On Tuesday, I hosted a Senate Aerospace Caucus event along with co-chair Senator Mark Warner. The event was to honor our Armed Forces, NASA and Department of Defense (DOD) leaders, and it was great to host them alongside members of the Aerospace Industries Association Board of Governors. I was pleased that NASA Administrator Nelson, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Allvin, Major General Finerty of the Air Force and Lt. General Wise of the Marine Corps were able to participate in this event. The relationship between businesses and DOD and NASA will only continue to grow as we continue to face threats to our national security.
The following morning, I participated in a fireside chat Q&A during the AIA Board of Governors meeting. Tom Gentile, President and CEO of Spirit AeroSystems, moderated the discussion that spanned a wide variety of topics, including my Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program (AMJP) which helped protect about 5,000 jobs across the state of Kansas, hypersonic weapons development and the USICA/COMPETES Act conference committee. I appreciated the opportunity to offer a view from Congress to AIA’s Board of Governors and reiterate the importance of their partnerships with our government agencies.
Meeting with Honeywell Aerospace
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with Mike Madsen, President and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace. They provided an update on their work and the importance of their location in Olathe, Kansas. It was great to catch up with Mr. Madsen and his team, and I will continue to remain an advocate for the important work they do for the aerospace industry.
Strengthening U.S.-Columbia Relations
I joined a bipartisan group of senators to sponsor the United States-Colombia Bicentennial Act to provide a comprehensive bilateral agenda focused on promoting economic growth, peace, democratic governance and international security. Colombia is an enduring partner for the United States in our shared Western Hemisphere, enjoying 200 years of diplomatic relations. Given the region’s importance and the challenges we face together, this legislation provides the framework to deepen our cooperation and keep our region safe and secure.
Discussing Association of American Universities Priorities
I met with Barbara Snyder, President of the Association of American Universities (AAU), this week to discuss the ongoing competitiveness legislation conference committee negotiations. As part of the conference committee for the China competition bill, I am working with all of my colleagues on the committee toward agreement on a focused bill that reflects the research and development needs of our country to ensure America continues to be global leader in innovation. The member institutions of the Association of American Universities, which consists of leading research universities, including the University of Kansas, have and will continue to play a vital role in making our country more competitive, and I appreciate AAU President Snyder for sharing her insight.
Remembering Porubsky’s Deli and Tavern
This week, I spoke on the Senate Floor to honor Porubsky’s Deli and Tavern in the United States Senate.
To someone from out of town, Porubsky’s Grocery and Meat doesn’t seem like much. But for railroad workers, Topeka locals and legislators from the statehouse who frequent Porubsky’s, it was the best place in town to grab a delicious meal and receive a friendly welcome. What the Porubsky family have been serving up for decades is more than just tasty sandwiches; it’s a place where you can go to know people and be known. And be known so well that your sandwich is made before you even make it to the counter to order it.”
While I am sad to see Porubsky’s close their doors after decades, 75 years, of service, the Porubsky family themselves and their famous grocery will never be forgotten. I knew Charlie and Cecilia’s mom and dad, and I know Charlie and Cecilia well today. I thank them for being such good friends and for looking after my well-being and that of thousands of other customers over so many years.
Welcoming Kansans to Washington
This week, I had the opportunity to welcome Kansas Honor Flight Veterans to Washington, D.C. These Kansans are Vietnam and Korean war veterans, and I was able to join them when they were at the Navy Memorial. It was an honor to welcome them and express my gratitude for their sacrifice and service to our country. Thank you to the Parsons High School students who accompanied these veterans and helped make their visit go smoothly.
St. Ann Catholic School
I appreciated visiting with St. Ann 7th and 8th graders in the crypt of the Capitol during their tour on Wednesday. Washington, D.C. holds important history and democracy lessons for our nation’s young students, and I always enjoy the opportunity to speak with young Kansans during what is often their first time in our nation’s capital. Thank you to the teachers and parents that make these trips possible.
Sacred Heart Jr.-Sr. High School
On Thursday, I welcomed Sacred Heart Jr.-Sr. High School’s forensics team to our nation’s capital as they prepared to compete in the National Catholic Forensic League National Tournament. I enjoyed hearing about their season and the events they qualified for nationals in and was able to wish them good luck!
On my way from Wichita to my hometown of Plainville, I stopped to visit with Kansans at Minooka State Park at Lake Wilson and to catch up with Michael and Paige Kraus, the new owners of the Wilson Marina.