Earlier this month, our country looked back with sadness on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Despite the anguish of losing more than 3,000 American lives that day, our country was inspired by the courage and sacrifice of the many men and women who honored the call to duty to defend our nation and our freedoms. Many of these men and women have served and continue to serve as members of the United States Air Force.

This month the United States Air Force celebrated its 65th anniversary. In 1947, the Department of the Air Force was established as a separate and independent military service from the U.S. Army. Since then, thousands of pilots, gunners, radio operators, and navigators have served a proud and grateful nation as members of the U.S. Air Force.

Not only has the Air Force continued to be an agent for positive change around the world, but it also has been a force for good right here in South Dakota. Ellsworth Air Force Base, which recently celebrated its 70th year as a military base, continues to play an important military role and has had a direct positive economic impact in South Dakota. In fact, as one of the largest employers in the state, Ellsworth has an economic impact of more than $300 million to South Dakota’s economy.

While Ellsworth has experienced times of uncertainty, it has always played an important role in protecting our nation and promoting democracy around the globe. However, fiscal irresponsibility in Washington has the potential to impose significant cuts across the military, including all Air Force programs, due to the looming sequestration cuts that are scheduled to take place in January of 2013. While the risk is real, I am committed to protecting South Dakota’s military installations and ensuring that America’s national defense is not compromised by these draconian cuts.

I offer my congratulations and gratitude to all of our airmen and airwomen on the event of the U.S. Air Force’s 65th anniversary, and encourage all South Dakotans to join me in keeping the brave members of our military and their families in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to serve on our behalf.

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