U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, continued his tour of Morristown on Friday when he served as the guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club’s weekly meeting at The Country Club.
With Veterans’ Day looming, Roe told the audience more needed to be done to help the people who helped protect the United States against its enemies.
“When I got out of the Army in 1974, I really didn’t think anything about it. I was raising two kids and starting my practice,” said Roe, a physician who serves as a ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. “I’ve traveled around the world since then, and I’ve seen and been around totalitarian governments.
“That’s when I realized how wonderful America is.”
Roe said more and more veterans have come home with mental, physical and emotional disabilities who have fallen through the cracks – and are in desperate need of care.
“Some of the members of our armed forces have come back so damaged they will never have the kind of life I’m lucky to have been able to have,” he said. “This is why our veterans need to be honored and helped.”
Roe, who toured Iatric Manufacturing Solutions earlier in the day, said the Lakeway Area has created a self-sufficient industrial base, and the region’s students can be on the fast track to fulfilling careers if they work hard enough.
“If you have a great work ethic, meaning you can pass a drug test and be there at 8 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m., you can find a job here, “ he said. “Our state is blowing by everybody.
“The state bird should be the crane because of all the construction we’re seeing.”
While acknowledging the trade war with China has negatively affected Tennessee, Roe said he continues to support President Donald Trump on trade.
“We’ve had bad trade deals for a long time,” he said. “A new trade deal will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and bring manufacturing jobs back to this country.”
The opioid epidemic has affected Tennessee in ways very few states can share. Roe said it is an issue that must be addressed before more overdoses and deaths occur.
“We have a serious problem with opioid addiction,” he said. “We lost over 1,000 people to opioid overdoses in the state in 2018. This is preventable.
“That’s more than (deaths from) heart disease and cancer combined in one year.”
One part of the solution is to protect rural hospitals from closing, Roe said to the attendees. Tennessee, along with Texas and Alabama, has the lowest-paid medical professional in the country – and hospitals are closing because nurses and doctors are leaving to find better-paying jobs elsewhere.
“If you lose your critical-access hospitals, you’re done as an area,” Roe said. “Industries look for good hospitals, among other things.
“If you don’t have those things, you’re not getting those industries.”
Roe closed his address by talking about the impeachment inquiry of Trump in Washington. While he doesn’t agree with the impeachment of the president, he knows it’s inevitable.
“The best disinfectant is sunshine,” Roe said. “Let’s put the information (in the inquiry) out there, and see what happens.”