Earlier this month, after almost 47 years, I was presented the Purple Heart for my service in Vietnam thanks to help from Senator Mark Udall. Even after so long, the recognition brought closure to the mental and physical wounds I endured so long ago. Unfortunately, so many veterans have gone unrecognized for their service and even when honored, the memories of war can blind us of how such recognition can heal unseen wounds. This is why having a U.S. senator who fights to ensure veterans receive the care and recognition earned through so much sacrifice is so important for Colorado. Mark Udall’s work on behalf of the more than 400,000 veterans like me who call Colorado home is why he has earned my vote.
Mark’s help was vital to quickly securing this medal, and I know I am not the only veteran he has helped. Mark and his staff actively reach out to our communities, helping us navigate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) to secure our disability benefits and access the other benefits we’ve earned.
As a disabled veteran, I know the importance of the V.A. keeping faith with us. I have listened to my fellow veterans tell of challenges they’ve faced when seeking support from the V.A. I was proud to learn that Mark Udall was among the first to call on the V.A. to straighten up their act with new leadership and ensure those responsible for any wrongdoing would be held accountable. He supported legislation to reduce the backlog at veterans’ hospitals. And as a leader on the Senate Armed Services Committee, he’s fighting to help those facing post-traumatic stress and mental illness. I know firsthand how difficult it is to overcome the demons of war, and it is family and community that helps heal those wounds. Mark Udall is someone who understands this.
When others may have given up, Mark stood up for us — even when it was unpopular or difficult. Unfortunately, Mark Udall’s opponent, Congressman Gardner, is another story.
When I learned that Congressman Gardner opposed an effort to hire more workers to help veterans’ hospitals reduce their backlog and speed care, I was astonished. He even voted to cut housing assistance to homeless veterans. For me, the choice is clear: We can’t afford Congressman Gardner.
Mark has our backs, and now he needs our votes.
As veterans, we’ve fought to defend our freedom and our democracy. Now, we need to exercise what we’ve fought to protect. This means voting for someone who understands the struggles of veterans and service members and that of their families. Fill out the ballot you received in the mail for Mark Udall and mail it back with two stamps. If you didn’t get a ballot, there’s still time to register to vote and make your voice heard.
Mark has honored the sacrifices we and our families have made for our country. We need his voice to continue to stand up for us in the U.S. Senate. He’s earned my vote, and I hope yours too.
Rudy Tafoya is a life long Pueblo County resident and Vietnam Veteran who has received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service, among other medals.