Senators visit deployed Soldiers
November 27, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION ADDER, Iraq - Illinois Sen. Roland W. Burris visited Soldiers from his home state at Contingency Operating Location Adder, Iraq, Nov. 24 at Memorial Hall to answer their questions and talk about programs available to them.
Burris, a Centralia, Ill., native, said he serves on three committees in the Senate aimed at helping service members: the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
He and the two Oregon state senators he traveled with planned to make a trip to Afghanistan as well as Iraq, he said, but were unable because they needed to be back in time to vote on President Barack Obama's healthcare bill.
Burris said the trip was a learning experience.
"(The goal) was to come over to learn and see how our troops are being treated," said Burris. "Making sure everything is being handled and (hearing) what our boots on the ground have to say."
Staff Sgt. Raymond Hookfin, headquarters' platoon sergeant, with the 66th Transportation Company out of Kaiserslautern, Germany, and a Chicago native, met with and asked Burris a few questions.
"I thought it was a good opportunity to get a chance to speak with my senator," said Hookfin. "To speak with him and ... voice my opinions. It was a great opportunity to be heard."
Hookfin said Burris spoke to the Soldiers about veterans' benefits, specifically medical care and the new G.I. Bill.
"A lot of the Soldiers, when they came back from Vietnam were not ... treated fairly ... and they want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to us when we return from our deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.
Hookfin said he was impressed Burris traveled so far to visit his Soldiers, and believes the visit was worthwhile.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I came out - even after working a long day - I still wanted to come out to take the opportunity to meet my senator," said Hookfin. "It was worth the time, worth the time spent."
Burris said he appreciates the hard work of men and women in the military who defend Americans' freedoms.
"The only way America could stay strong, free and safe, is because we have a strong military," he said. "To all the service men and women from Illinois and across this country ... Hang in there, continue to defend us and we appreciate it. God bless you."