ARLINGTON, Va. -- Some of the nation's most influential veterans had some choice words for Congress on Wednesday, the day when legislative inaction could have injured millions of Americans who rely on federal support.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, who received the Medal of Honor for his 2009 actions in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, was here at the Pentagon Wednesday to see the same honor bestowed upon his fellow service member, former Capt. William Swenson.
Days after Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said a continued shutdown could eliminate "crucial" benefits for 5 million active and former soldiers, Romesha called on Congress to read the very document they so often cite.
"I hope our congressmen and women will sit there and read their Constitution," he tells U.S. News, "and see where it says 'Raise and support armies.'"
"It's actually in there, and that is something we should definitely apply," he says.
U.S. Marines who fought alongside former Army Capt. William Swenson in the Battle of Ganjgal attended the honor ceremony at the Pentagon Wednesday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also cited their heroism that day in his remarks.
The former staff sergeant called Congress' gridlock disheartening and unfortunate.
Romesha was referring to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which calls on Congress specifically "To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years."
This is particularly relevant at a time when the military still operates on a continuing resolution from FY 12, due to gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Romesha wasn't the only service member who had some advice for the nation's top lawmakers. At a ceremony to induct Swenson into the Defense Department's Hall of Honor, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recalled the former captain's story as an example of the importance of serving others.
"[This is] a time in our country when we need more unifying dimensions and dynamics, that reminds us of who we are," he said. "Yes, as a great nation but even more importantly as a good people."
"The Will Swenson story does that. It does remind us of who we are: Sacrifice. Service. Going beyond your own personal ambitions, your own personal interests, and serving the interests of others first," Hagel added.
Roughly a dozen active duty Marines and soldiers who served with Swenson during a joint campaign in Gangal, Afghanistan were in the Pentagon auditorium for the event. Swenson received the award for repeatedly braving enemy fire to rescue wounded comrades and delivering them to medical support.