Opinion: Veterans have fought to protect the American dream, Congress should too

(Photo via Shutterstock)

By Paul Wuensch

November 22, 2023

Wisconsin based veteran calls on Congressman Van Orden to look out for working families, seniors, and children.

Our nation’s veterans are called to serve our country because we believe in the promise of America: That no matter who you are, where you come from, or where you live, you should have the opportunity to succeed. At its most basic level, that means we have to protect the rights and freedoms guaranteed to everyone in our country – but it has to be more than that. We need our leaders, especially those in Congress, to look out for working families, seniors, and children and fight for them over special interests and big corporations.

Service to the people comes in many different forms. I followed in my father’s footsteps and decided to join the military, proudly serving 10 years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, including a deployment during Desert Storm. Others have chosen to serve by running for office. Regardless of the path we choose, our goals should be the same, but you wouldn’t know that from how Congress is behaving.

Just look at Congressman Derrick Van Orden. While nothing will top his disgraceful decision to be on the US Capitol grounds on the day of the January 6 insurrection, his votes since taking office show that he’s lost track of what his mission should be. While a lot of working families and seniors struggle with rising costs, Van Orden keeps voting to make them shoulder more of the burden and undo the progress President Biden and Democrats have already made.

When we were facing a government shutdown in September, Van Orden joined his Republican colleagues in supporting an absurd spending package that would’ve jeopardized the people we care about. Cutting nutrition services like Meals on Wheels for 1 million seniors, closing Social Security field offices, slashing heating assistance for low-income families, and taking away access to rural health care centers – that’s how far Van Orden and Republicans were willing to go.

And back in April of this year, with a looming default as we approached the nation’s debt limit, Van Orden once again voted to make the most vulnerable to suffer instead of asking those at the top to pay a bit more. He supported a plan that would’ve cut food assistance for millions, reduced access to care for veterans like me, and threatened a 22 percent cut to education and child care programs.

Now, Van Orden is at it again. As Republicans rush through appropriations bills, Van Orden has already voted to raise energy costs, cut good-paying jobs in the energy industry, and could soon vote to make it easier for wealthy tax cheats to avoid paying their fair share.

This doesn’t sound like a representative who has his priorities straight. Constantly voting to squeeze the most vulnerable, the people who are putting in an honest day’s work, and the people who have worked a lifetime isn’t what we deserve from Congress.

It’s time for Congressman Van Orden to remember his commitment to service, our shared values, the importance of the American dream, and start fighting for us.


  • Paul Wuensch

    Paul Wuensch of La Crosse is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and served 10 years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard


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