The first and best definition of patriotism is keeping faith with those who wear our uniform. That means giving our troops the resources they need to keep safe while they’re keeping us safe. And it means supporting our troops at home as well as abroad.

We are here today because many of us believe our troops are not being adequately supported at home. Too many military reservists and National Guard members suffer a pay cut when called to defend our nation. Some of these citizen soldiers are vital to protecting America, like the members of the 181st Infantry of the Massachusetts Army National Guard who recently returned from fighting terrorism nobly in Baghdad, and are today are saving lives in New Orleans. These men and women are much more than weekend warriors. The all-volunteer army depends on them. They have been serving our country with distinction and pride for many years, and should not be penalized financially for their honorable service.

The recent tragedy of Hurricane Katrina reminds us of the important role reservists serve. We have all read the stories of Louisiana reservists who have been serving in Iraq who came home to find that they lost everything. I am pleased to have worked with the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee to include a provision in the Hurricane Katrina Tax Relief legislation that would assist our reservists. But there is much work left to be done.

Most large businesses have the resources to provide supplemental income to reservist employees called up, and to replace them with a temporary employee. I applaud the businesses that have been able to pay supplemental income to their reservists. But it’s not that easy for the small businesses that make up 99% of all U.S. businesses. We have countless small business that want to do the right thing, but just can’t afford it.

So today we will discuss several proposals I have put forth to help reservists and small businesses. The first is the Small Business Reservist Tax Credit Act, legislation myself and others have proposed to help our small businesses do the right thing. The bill will provide a tax credit to small businesses who continue to pay the salary of their reservist employees when they are called up to active duty to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan or New Orleans. It provides a 40 percent tax credit for up to $25,000 to make up any difference in pay for any small business with up to 100 employees and an additional 40 percent tax credit for up to $15,000 to offset the cost of hiring a temporary replacement. I have also introduced the Military Family Bill of Rights which will provide economic injury disaster grants, loans and technical assistance to help small businesses survive when a reservist employee is called up to active duty.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses to get an idea of how we can improve this legislation, and learn what else we can do. These hearings are inevitably so much more valuable than those held in Washington. But more than anything, I look forward to our witnesses underscoring the importance of this issue for those in Washington who have voted against such measures in the past. I just want to tell you one story that has always inspired me to want to get this done.

Pedro Sotelo, a 33 year-old veteran from Kansas City, was a reservist for nine years. From 1997 to 2004, he was called up to active duty 10 times. With each activation he saw his income drop from $60,000 a year as a sheet metal worker to $30,000 a year as an Army Staff Sergeant. When he would go away to serve his country time and time again, his bills would pile up, and his credit rating would plummet. Eventually, this financial strain contributed to the end of Pedro Sotelo’s marriage, and the end of his service in the reserves.

Pedro Sotelo and the hundreds of thousands of reservists in America deserve better. I hope that our work here today to help our reservists and the small businesses that employ them can ensure that our great tradition of citizen soldiers does not fade or end because of the effect service can have on work and family.

I want to thank Boston College for hosting this important hearing. And I especially want to thank our witnesses for taking the time to be with us today, and having the courage to serve a country that has too often failed to serve them.

Today, we will hear from Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office, which earlier this year released a report on the effects of reserve call-ups on civilian employers, particularly small businesses. We will also hear from Marshall Hanson, the Legislative Director of the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, which has been a critical voice for our military reservists in Washington and around the nation. Next we will hear from Ken Forchielli, the State Chairman of the Massachusetts Committee for the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserves, to learn more about the needs of our military reservists. Finally, we will hear from a Massachusetts small business owner and a reservist who will tell us of the problems they have experienced first hand.