Congressman Skelton addresses Lincoln University ROTC Veterans' Day breakfast

West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton tells a Veterans’ Day Breakfast he worries that America is forgetting the horrors of 9-11 as it concentrates on economic concerns.

Skelton tells those gathered at the Lincoln University Army ROTC breakfast in Jefferson City that Election Day didn’t just deal a blow to his political career, but to several like-minded Democrats who served on the House Armed Services Committee. Skelton lost his re-election bid to Republican Vicky Hartzler, ending 34 years in Congress. Skelton says 10 Democrats who served with him on the committee lost their bids for re-election; all moderate to conservative members from the Midwest and South.

Skelton says serving as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has been the greatest honor of his public life.

“We have worked hard to increase military pay, improve benefits, build modern housing for our troops and their families. We have worked to protect and improve health care for service members and their families, and we have worked to improve the care we provide our wounded warriors,” Skelton says.

Skelton says tremendous challenges confront the United States no matter who controls Congress. He suggests that building consensus on issues will not be easy.

“In looking at history, and applying it to the immediate legislative issues, I feel that the incoming Congress of the United States will be challenged as seldom before to reach consensus on key legislation. But with our economy needing attention and the continuation of our fight against terrorists in the Middle East, this should be the time for everyone to pull together. And I certainly hope this will happen,” Skelton says.

Skelton says his greatest concern is that America will neglect its military.

“I am fearful that a chasm will develop between those who protect our freedoms and those who are being protected,” says Skelton.

Skelton speaks with Army ROTC students

He says the recent election neglected discussion of the war on terrorism as it concentrated on economic concerns.

“I’m concerned that the attacks on September 11, 2001, will fade in the American consciousness and that the purpose of our efforts against extremist terrorists will fade,” Skelton tells the gathering. “It could come to pass that the American military could become isolated from American society and that Americans’ and their thoughts may fail to consider our men and women in uniform.”

“Our ability to maintain military readiness is critical as the country deals with our ongoing challenges. There is a reasonable desire to reduce federal spending and start paying down our national debt. But there is also a constituency that believes the way to demonstrate budget discipline is by making drastic cuts in our national defense. This train of thought troubles me greatly,” Skelton says.

Skelton says concern about the federal deficit cannot be used to reduce readiness and risk American lives.

“As we commemorate Veterans Day, it’s our duty to remember and honor the service men and women who fought for our freedoms. We must also make sure each generation understands and appreciates the sacrifices made by Americans who have served in the past and those who serve today,” Skelton says.

AUDIO: Congressman Ike Skelton’s address to the Lincoln University Army ROTC Veterans’ Day breakfast [17 min MP3]