As a young boy, I aspired to be a professional athlete. I played football, baseball and boxed, and as I began playing on my college's baseball team I still dreamt of reaching the major leagues someday. But that dream faded as I realized I lacked the size needed to reach the professional ranks. Today, because I never "made it" athletically, I have such great admiration for those who have.
Yet as much as I respect great athletes, the real heroes in our country are the men and women who wear, or have worn, not athletic uniforms, but the uniforms of one of the branches of the United States military.
I'm proud of the more than 1,200 brave men and women from our state who make sacrifices every day as they fight to protect our freedoms abroad. Because of all that they do, it's our responsibility to go the extra mile for them.
That's why for years I worked to bring a USO lounge to McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, and we recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its opening. This lounge is crucial for Nevada because of the high number of service members stationed at the many military installations in our state, from Fallon Naval Air Station and Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot to Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases. Hundreds of thousands of service members and their families traveling through McCarran Airport now have a comfortable place to rest between flights.
More than 230,000 veterans also call Nevada home. When our troops return home, it is our duty to repay their service by ensuring they can find a job, have access to medical care and can transition smoothly back to civilian life.
As a part of that effort to help our veterans transition back home, the Senate, just before Veterans Day, passed a bipartisan jobs bill that will spur the hiring of 900,000 veterans in Nevada and around the country. The House of Representatives also overwhelmingly passed this legislation and sent it to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature. This showing of bipartisanship was a far-too-rare occurrence, but I'm pleased that we came together to support the people who deserve our backing the most.
Specifically, the VOW To Hire Heroes Act provides tax credits to businesses that hire an unemployed or disabled veteran; they will also benefit from relevant training to assist them in finding work. Opportunities for older veterans to further their education at community colleges or technical schools will expand, and disabled veterans will be provided with an extra year of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.
While we support our veterans once they're home, the harsh reality of war is that not all of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends, return from duty. These men and women make the ultimate sacrifice, and it's our duty to memorialize them properly. Last year, I was pleased to announce the expansion of the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, which developed an additional three acres for more than 450 burial plots so that all families may have a special place to remember their loved ones.
I'm pleased with the ways in which we've improved the lives of veterans and active-duty service men and women. Yet we can always do more, and I will continue to be staunch advocate for these true heroes.
• Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is the Senate majority leader.