The entrance to the Armed Forces Retirement Home (previously known as the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home) in the District. (Steven Ginsberg/The Washington Post)

I come from a military family. My brother, father and grandfather were combat veterans. My father told me that the freedom I enjoyed every day was not free: It was paid for by brave men and women who served our country in the armed forces.

Of all the things that bother me about the District’s disenfranchised status, treating our veterans like second-class citizens is the most troubling. It is one thing to say thank you for your service and another thing to mean it.

Hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents have served during wartime. More than 5,000 have died in overseas wars. Thirty-nine Medal of Honor recipients are from the District.

It’s time to end this political anachronism that subjects our city to congressional rule. It’s time to acknowledge the contribution that District residents have made for more than 200 years, not only with their taxes but also with their courage, blood and sacrifice.

Every day we treat D.C. veterans as unequal participants in the democracy that they have helped build and preserve, we disrespect their service and diminish their contribution to this country. 

We must make the residents of the District equal through statehood. If we can’t find the collective will to do it for our democracy or for our community, we should, at the very least, do it for our veterans. 

Michael D. Brown, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, represents the District of Columbia as a shadow U.S. senator.