pearce2 New bills aim to help wounded warriors, remedy Bergdahl backpay fiasco

Steve Pearce, N.M. representative speaks with service members Jan. 18, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicole Sikorski/Released)

By Eric Dehm

Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) represents New Mexico’s 2nd District now, but years before he held public office, he served in the Air Force. Pearce was drafted into the Air Force, became a pilot, and deployed to Vietnam, where he flew hundreds of hours of combat missions.

While his military service ended over four decades ago, the Congressman says he takes pride in continuing to do what he can to help the veteran and military communities. There’s nothing new about a veteran, especially one that also happens to be a politician, saying they want to help the vet/military communities. With Congressmen Pearce, one need only look at the three pieces of legislation he has introduced in recent days to see he follows up on his words.

On November 28th, Pearce introduced H.R. 4453, the Protecting Wounded Warriors Right to Serve Act, which gives wounded warriors who want to continue serving opportunities in the emerging field of Remotely Piloted Aircrafts (RPA), regardless of their military branch.

“Now we make it real specific to the RPAs because we are going through a shortage,” Pearce said during a recent appearance on The Morning Briefing. “The training happens in our district and so we watched the shortage of pilots so I’m saying ‘wait, these young men and women in wheelchairs, or with prosthetics, they can easily sit at the desk and run the computer that controls the RPAs… so lets use our wounded warriors and let them earn their retirement and let them earn their retirement, not just give ’em a paycheck and send them out on the streets to live a life of aimlessness.”

pearce3 New bills aim to help wounded warriors, remedy Bergdahl backpay fiasco

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico 2nd district, receives training in an F-16 Fighting Falcon simulator, from Maj. Ryan Chute, 54th Operation Support Squadron deputy commander, before Pearce’s orientation flight, Dec. 16, 2016, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Pearce was offered an orientation flight on the F-16, to better understand the capabilities and mission of the F-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Amanda N. Junk)

Two weeks prior to introducing that legislation, on the heels of the Bowe Bergdahl sentencing and a following announcement from his legal team relating to pay issues, Pearce got to work on an attempt to have congress amend the UCMJ. The Congressman says he felt the whole trial and aftermath were offensive to anyone who has served, and felt he had to do something to prevent it from going any further, or happening again.

“When the judge says ‘well, we’re not gonna give you any jail time’ it just made me cringe,” Pearce said. “Then the final insult came when they said the Army was thinking of giving him back his $300,000 back pay from when he was a deserter. I’m sorry but that went too far.”

The bill would ensure that any backpay goes not to deserters, but to those affected by their actions including families of those wounded or killed while searching for them.

pearce1 New bills aim to help wounded warriors, remedy Bergdahl backpay fiasco

Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals for his actions as a USAF pilot in Vietnam. (Official Congressional Portrait)

Pearce also recently introduced legislation to make what he calls long overdue changes and improvements to Disabled Veterans Life Insurance which he says would make the first significant changes in the program since the 1940s.

the Congressman says the bills introduced have long roads ahead of them, but he believes they will make it out of the House and is hopeful that the Senate will see the benefits offered by all three.

To hear the full, wide-ranging interview with Congressman Pearce covering the details of this legislation and more, including the current concerning shortage of military pilots. You can stream it below or download and listen later by selecting the share button and selecting “Download” from the options.

Connect: @EricDehm | Eric@ConnectingVets.com

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