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Jackson Cit Pat: Take time to reflect on the many sacrifices our nation's veterans have made for our country

November 11, 2014
Opinion Editorial

As we take time this week to pay tribute to our military men and women who have returned home from the battlefield, I hope you will make the day more personal by reflecting on individuals in our community – whether a relative, neighbor or friend – who volunteered to put on a uniform and serve in defense of our great nation.

I've been personally inspired by the story of Samuel MacDonald Worthington, a 1934 graduate of Jackson High School who left his position as a draftsman and tool designer to enlist in the Navy. 

Although older than most in training, he was determined to excel as a pilot, and served in World War II as a flight instructor and a patrol plane commander. When his overseas tour ended, Lt. (jg) Worthington re-enlisted to ensure that all of his crew members returned home safely. 

During his second deployment, Worthington's plane came upon the wreckage of the U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35), in the Pacific Ocean – one of the worst at sea naval disasters in history.

Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, the U.S.S. Indianapolis with almost 1,200 crew members on board, was hit by two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine.

The ship was split into three parts, and it sank within 12 minutes. Three-quarters of the crew died in the attack, making it the largest loss of life at sea in the Navy's history.

While on patrol from Saipan to Jinamoc, Worthington and his crew noticed a flash and a large oil slick.

They saw the survivors of the tragedy, with sharks around the perimeter, and the crew began dropping all survival gear – including their own life jackets and rafts - but their request for permission to land and pick up survivors was denied.

Worthington's daughter Dee-Dee says, "My precious father has passed to his heavenly home, but I still have contact with the radioman. My mother and I were honored to represent my father at the opening of an exhibit at the National Military History Center in Auburn, Indiana.

The exhibit included a U.S.S. Indianapolis display with a picture of my dad/crew and an informative write-up. We also were humbled to meet some of the survivors."    

On Veterans Day, we will pause to reflect on the many sacrifices our nation's uniformed men and women have made for our country.

Here in the House of Representatives, I've worked to honor those sacrifices by supporting a number of veterans' bills, including legislation to address the disability claim backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), improve vocational and educational opportunities, and to help vulnerable disabled veterans maintain housing.

In May, I introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure living Medal of Honor recipients receive timely access to their health benefits.

We have a duty to make sure these heroes have access to the VA when they need it, and the Medal of Honor Priority Care Act will ensure that this select group of individuals is guaranteed high-quality care.

I've also spearheaded efforts to assist service members as they end their military service and transition back into civilian life.

The Service Members Transition Improvement Act is a bipartisan bill I've introduced to strengthen the connection between separating soldiers and veteran service organizations by providing a more accessible and up-to-date copy of their information to state veterans agencies. 

The legislation was later included as an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act which passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

For those heroes who are no longer with us, such as Lt. Samuel Worthington, we will forever be grateful for their heroic military service and defense of our nation's freedoms.

For those who are still living in our community, we will continue to demonstrate our gratitude and work to provide the benefits and care they have earned and deserved.