(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
SIKESTON -- For much of his 30 years in Congress, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., has served on the Armed Services Committee. During those years, the military has had 12 military engagements -- four of them major -- and today there are American troops at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Skelton said these current missions are stressing and straining the Army and Marines to their limits. The strain is so great, he told members of Sikeston's American Legion and Legion Auxiliary on Saturday, if the nation's military were called to another mission, there is not a ready force available.
"The Army and the Marines are stressed to a point that should we have another Korea, we would have a difficult time answering the call," Skelton said.
According to Skelton, many of those serving as officers -- commissioned and non-commissioned -- have served more than one tour in combat recently. Because of the hardships of the multiple deployments, many of those who would otherwise make the military a career, are leaving the service, he said.
"These are our future command sergeants, our future colonels," said Skelton, who added without these experienced leaders, the readiness of troops is impacted.
Skelton called for an increase in the size of the nation's military and urged the veterans and Auxiliary members in the audience to support the effort. Also he called for an increase in the military's budget, noting much of the equipment is in need of replacement.
Finally, Skelton told the audience to be sure to show those serving in the military their appreciation for their service.
"We are charged by the Constitution to raise and maintain a militia... to prepare for the unexpected," said Skelton. "Although we don't know what will be next, as sure as God made little green apples, there will be challenges ahead."
In introducing Skelton, U.S. Rep. JoAnn Emerson described him as a man who knew the value of God, country and family. Also she noted he has two sons currently on active duty -- one in the Army and the other in the Navy.
"There are few patriots of the caliber of Ike Skelton," she said.