Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) used her first speech on the Senate floor Tuesday to call for better mental health services for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Speaking about the scourge of veteran suicides, Sinema highlighted the story of Sgt. Daniel Somers, an Arizona native and Iraq War veteran who died by suicide in 2013 after battling PTSD.
“The story of Sergeant Somers and his parents — the failure of the VA [Veterans Affairs] bureaucracy to provide the support this Arizona veteran needed, and the resulting tragedy — is not a story that dominated the national headlines,” Sinema said. “It wasn’t a political scandal or a partisan food-fight to which members of Congress were pressured to respond … but it’s exactly the kind of work that matters.”
Somers’s parents, Howard and Jean Somers, were in attendance for Sinema’s speech and have worked with her to craft legislation giving veterans returning from combat better mental health services.
Sinema got choked up when detailing the veteran’s struggle with PTSD after returning home and how he was unable to get necessary care.
“Americans returning home from serving our nation must always have somewhere to turn for support,” she said. “Sgt. Somers’s story will sound too familiar to too many military families.”
The Arizona Democrat also paid homage to the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who passed away in August from brain cancer. McCain served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee before his death.
“He taught us to always assume the best in others, to seek compromise instead of sowing division, and to always put country ahead of party,” she said. “I hope that we’re making Sen. McCain proud with such important work.”
Sinema, who won election last year to fill the seat held by former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), added that she has shaped how she works in the Senate based on how McCain operated for decades in Congress, calling him her “personal hero.”
“What Sen. McCain said in his last speech in this chamber shapes my service to Arizona every day,” Sinema said.
She noted that she waited six months since being sworn in to give her first floor speech so that she could “demonstrate to Arizonans in actions more than words exactly how I intend to serve.”