Student loans, Social Security, and Medicare make a difference in the lives of working families every day, and the conversation that should be taking place is how we can save these programs, not weaken them.
We must recognize and keep in the public consciousness the significant contributions and sacrifices Americans of every community have made that have helped forge the greatest country our world has ever known.
I do not have PTSD, but if I watch part of a movie like 'The Hurt Locker,' or when I spend time around Blackhawk helicopters, I will close my eyes that night and live an entire day in Iraq, flying my missions. I remember the smell and the feel and the heat and everything about it. Then I wake up in Illinois, and I'm exhausted.
Nobody wants to be on food stamps, but when my family lost everything, we were grateful for it. I was grateful the program was there so I could concentrate on my schoolwork and not on my empty belly. We were grateful that we had the support we needed to roll up our sleeves and rebuild our lives.
Whether defending our nation as a Black Hawk pilot abroad or serving our veterans and those in need at home, my life has been enriched by the opportunities I've had to serve my country and fellow citizens, both in and out of uniform.
I know firsthand that immigrants make enormous contributions to our nation, but I also know that we need to secure our borders and make sure that those who came here illegally wait their turn, pay a fine and any unpaid taxes, and pass a criminal background check before becoming citizens.
As I recovered at Walter Reed, I worried about the soldiers who pulled me out of my helicopter that Friday afternoon. Would they make it back okay? And what about all the other soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who were also putting their lives on the line every day?
My strength is in finding ways to make the government work for the people: finding waste, or money that is not being properly used... or finding opportunities that are out there and making them work for the community.
The contributions of African Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants throughout our nation's history are undeniable, but the tendency to overlook their gallant efforts is pervasive and persistent.
I was in Congress for six months, and they put me on blood pressure medication. I flew helicopters in combat and I was fine, and I survived 13 months in recovery in the hospital... I got to Congress, and six months later I'm on blood pressure medication. Fourteen months later, they doubled the dosage!
Every day, members of the LGBTQ community deal with challenges that most Americans will never have to face. These challenges appear in the workplace, in your homes, in your community, and even in the halls of Congress.
I know from personal experience that engaging with your community and helping others helps foster a sense of shared sacrifice and - at a time when our politics seem more focused on tearing us apart than bringing us together - that shared sacrifice will help us rekindle the national unity that has made us the strongest nation in the world.
I am just one of the overwhelming majority of Americans who is responsible and hard-working and at one point in their life benefited greatly from government programs such as student loans, Medicare, and Social Security.