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Opinion: U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson’s farewell letter to Third District constituents

by | Nov 21, 2018 | Opinion

To the good folks of the Third District of Texas:

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I would like to take this time before the holidays to say a few words of gratitude as well as offer a farewell as your Congressman.  

As Texans, we are a blessed to live in the best state in the greatest nation in the world. And I believe we are also uniquely blessed to call the Third District of Texas “home.” We have great schools and a thriving, business-friendly economy, both of which contribute to our cities frequently being named some of the top places to live in the country. But it is the people of the Third District who create this successful environment. The close-knit community of this area is what drew my wife, Shirley, and me to move here prior to my second deployment in Vietnam. And when I was shot down during a combat mission in 1966 and taken captive by the North Vietnamese, this community was there for Shirley and our three children. What’s more, when I came home after nearly seven years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, the Third District welcomed me back with open arms. I will be eternally grateful to this community for their love and support during that most difficult time, which is why it is one of the highest honors of my life to give back to the Third District by representing you in Washington, D.C.

As some folks may know, the reason I decided to serve in Congress is because of a promise I made while I was a POW. You see, a lot of us POWs weren’t happy with our government. But we made a promise that when we got back, we would stop griping about it. Instead, we would work to fix it.

Looking back, I’m proud to say I kept that promise.

Close to home, I’ve had the privilege of accomplishing a number of important initiatives for our community. One recent highlight for me includes working on water supply issues to ensure North Texas has enough clean water to meet our growing population. It was an uphill battle to get the permit and break ground this spring on the Lower Bois d’Arc Lake – a reservoir that will prevent a predicted water shortage in North Texas – but with hard work, it happened!

Also on the local front, I was honored to work jointly with Congressman Jeb Hensarling to get the Wright Amendment repealed, which unfairly punished consumers flying out of Dallas Love Field. And on behalf of North Texas’ rapidly growing veterans’ population, I was also proud to play a leading role in getting a VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Plano.

As a 29-year Air Force veteran who represents a large, active veteran community, it has also been my privilege to support our servicemen and women – past and present – in Congress. I have voted to ensure our troops have the funding and equipment they need to successfully complete their mission, and I’ve voted to ensure our veterans receive the quality care and support they need when they return home. As a POW, I have also continually worked to see that all American service members who are Missing in Action (MIA) or otherwise unaccounted for are not forgotten. Just this year, the late Senator John McCain and I introduced bipartisan resolutions in the House and Senate calling for an intensified effort to fully account for our MIAs. I’m pleased to say the House passed my resolution unanimously, 411-0.

Because it is important to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and pass along to future generations the truth that “Freedom is not free,” I am proud I was able to get legislation signed into law to create the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened in 2014. Additional efforts of mine to honor our veterans include getting legislation signed into law to award America’s “Fighter Aces” the Congressional Gold Medal (presented in 2015) as well as legislation signed into law to allow for a Wall of Remembrance to be added to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. This Wall would list the names of all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who gave their lives in support of freedom during the Korean War. It would also list the number of all American POWs and MIAs from the Korean War. Notably, this Wall of Remembrance will be entirely privately funded. No taxpayer dollars would be spent on this addition!  

Finally, as Chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, it has been a top priority of mine to ensure that Social Security is put on a sustainable, long-term path forward so that future generations can rely on this vital program just like seniors do today. I have also worked to address waste, fraud, and abuse in the disability program as well as supported legislation so our teachers, firefighters, and police officers are treated just like all other workers when it comes to Social Security.

One of the accomplishments I am most proud of as Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee is legislation I had signed into law to prevent identity theft by better protecting Americans’ Social Security Numbers (SSNs). Specifically, this law ends the use of SSNs on Medicare cards. And in case you missed the news, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started issuing new cards this April!  

While there are many legislative victories I was proud to accomplish on behalf of the Third District, I consider local constituent services to be just as important. It has been an honor to serve you in a variety of ways, whether through:

Annual programs like my Congressional Veterans Commendation (CVC) Ceremony, Congressional Youth Advisory Council (CYAC), Congressional Art Competition, or Valentines for Veterans;

Outreach programs like the “Badges of Honor” medal event, the “Honor our Stars and Stripes” U.S. flag retirement program, or the U.S. Service Academy nominations program – which allowed me the opportunity to nominate hundreds of students to an service academy; or

Assistance with federal agencies on issues such as VA or Social Security benefits.

Before I close, I want to again say how grateful I am to have had privilege of serving you and our Third District community these past 27 years in Congress. It is my hope and prayer that any legacy I leave behind be one of service. A legacy of service is not something that happens overnight. It is something that is built and fostered. It requires commitment. But one person can make a positive difference in the lives of those around them. So I encourage you to take stock of the talents God has blessed you with and see how you can best serve others.

On that note, I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. I look forward to being home in Texas full-time and seeing you around the Third District.

God bless you, God bless Texas, and God bless America. I salute you all.

Sam

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