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WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — As Memorial Weekend arrives, more U.S. troops are headed to the Middle East.  

The President announced his administration has approved the deployment of at least 1,500 additional service men and women to the Middle East as tensions between the United States and Iran appear to still be on the rise. 

“We are going to be sending a relatively small number of troops,” said President Trump

Trump answered questions from reporters about the message the deployment sends.

“I don’t think Iran wants to fight, and I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us.” 

Pentagon officals said the increase includes engineering, intelligence, aircraft and surveillance.

“Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. 

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been escalating. Some lawmakers fear the Trump administration is provoking Iran.

“I think the escalation began when President Trump pulled us out of a diplomatic deal,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia). 

Kaine said the U.S. should defend itself when necessary, but he and other Democrats say the White House should not take military action unless Congress weighs in.

“The United States should not be in a war with Iran. It would be a tragic mistake,” Kaine said. 

The Defense Department said there are no plans to go to war with Iran. The Pentagon said it wants to be sure those who are protecting our country in the region have the protection they need.

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — There are persistent reports that the White House and Pentagon are working on plans to send thousands more U.S. troops to the Middle East. Communities around United States military bases are watching and waiting as well as hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. 

On Thursday, military leaders confirmed the Defense Department is considering plans to send additional troops to the Middle East in response to heightened tensions with Iran.

“What we’re looking at, are there things that we can do to enhance force protection?” said Patrick Shanahan, Acting Secretary of Defense.

Shanahan told reporters there are conversations, but so far no decisions about deploying more troops. Georgia Republican Congressman Buddy Carter supports the administration’s actions so far. 

“The President has made it clear that he does not want a war with Iran, and hopefully we can take care of this diplomatically,” Carter said. 

But some Democrats, including Senator Tammy Duckworth, fear the President’s national security advisor, John Bolton, is intent on provoking Iran.

“I think this march toward conflict with Iran is really being driven by Mr. Bolton, and that is concerning to me.” 

Virginia Democratic Congressman Donald McEachin wants to make sure Congress weighs in on any military action. 

“That the President understands he can not declare a war without coming to us,” said Rep. McEachin.

Defense leaders said they’re committed to updating Congress about the situation in Iran and whether more troops are needed. Administration officials said their goal is to prevent future threats without going to war.

“We know that the maximum pressure campaign is working, you can see that by the crumbling economy that they have, and we’ll see what happens from there,” said Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary. “We’re going to keep all of our options on the table”

Pentagon officials said they want to protect American interests as well as the safety of troops.

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Efforts to improve America’s roads and bridges hit a roadblock on Wednesday after President Trump walked out of a meeting with Democratic leaders on infrastructure.  

“You can’t do it under these circumstances,” said President Trump.

The president called a Rose Garden press conference to complain to reporters about continued calls by some Democrats for his impeachment. Shortly before the scheduled meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the president engaged in a “cover up” over the Mueller investigation.

“I don’t do coverups,” Trump said. 

The president said there will be no deals as long as Democrats continue to investigate him and his administration.

“You can go down the investigation track, and you can go down the investment track,” Trump said.

Caught in the middle of the political debate is a much needed $2 trillion facelift for America, including repairs to airports, schools and much-needed broadband service for underserved communities.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said funding infrastructure projects remains his top priority.

“I was prepared to give him {President Trump} a 35-page plan detailing this,” said Sen. Schumer.

But now, all talks are on hold, and there’s no sign that Democrats and the White House will make amends any time soon.

“When they get everything done. I’m all set to get infrastructure,” Trump said. 

“I pray for the President of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America,” said Pelosi.

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Military families around the nation are listening closely to the latest news from the Middle East, as tensions escalate between the U.S. and Iran.

On Tuesday, lawmakers attended closed-door meetings with Trump Administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. There are reports that U.S. intelligence has detected plans by Iran to attack Americans or American interests. President Trump has also tweeted warnings to Iran.  

Senator Tim Kaine said going to war would be a mistake.

“The last thing we need to be doing is getting in another war in the Middle East and contemplating sending 125,000 troops there,” said Kaine. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo updated lawmakers on possible Iranian threats and recently deployed U.S. forces to the Middle East. Following the briefing, Republican Congressman Tom Rice from South Carolina defended the Administration’s stance. 

“I think they had legimate reason for concern and acted appropriately,” said Rep. Rice.

Kaine questions the threat levels and asks if the Trump administration is provoking Iran.

Democrats are concerned about going to war and putting thousands of American lives at risk. Kaine said he wants to make sure Congress weighs in on any military action. 

“We should be having a debate on the floor of the Senate and every member of the Senate should have to vote on it,” Kaine said. “That’s what the Constitution says, that’s what the American people deserve.”

President Trump said there’s no indication Iran plans to attack the U.S.. He also told reporters there are no diplomatic talks taking place, but he’s open to negotiating with Iran.

“If they call, we would certainly negotiate. But that’s going to be up to them. I only want them to call if they’re ready,” Trump said. 

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — The U.S. Agriculture Department is scrambling to put together a multi-billion dollar package to help farmers who are suffering collateral damage from the trade war with China.

The tariff battle has proved devastating for many farms, farmers, and their communities.  

“We’ve seen these tariffs disproportionately hit Virginia farmers, particularly soybean farmers,” said Senator Mark Warner, (D-Virginia).

Warner said the trade war with China is costing families in his state millions. 

“While I think it is appropriate for the president to say the status quo with China cannot stand — China is not playing fairly — I think we all feel there is not a real strategy here.”

President Trump said his policy is working and promises Americans will see the benefits.

“I think we are winning it. We are going to be collecting $100 billion in tariffs,” Trump said.

The Trump Administration is promising up to $20 billion in aid to farmers to help offset their losses from the trade war. USDA officials have not release any details yet.

George Washington University professor Joann Weiner said farmers are frustrated.

“The bailouts will last only so long. They would rather not have a bailout,” Weiner said. Many farmers say they would rather be earning income from selling what we make.”

Weiner said farmers are struggling. Some who voted for President Trump fear they can’t hold on much longer. 

With the 2020 election inching closer, she said farmers are waiting to see if the president delivers on a trade deal.

“If that happens they will stick with the president. But if not, why not go with the Democrat who will not be creating wars?” Weiner said.

Republican Congressman Buddy Carter supports the president’s plan, and said the pain is temporary. 

“This is going to be some short-term pain for long-term gain” said Congressman Buddy Carter, (R-Georgia).

China said if a deal isn’t reached by June, it plans to raise tariffs again.

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Summer vacation season is nearly here, but a popular destination, America’s national parks are falling apart. Buildings, restrooms, roads, campgrounds and trails have been neglected for years and need repair.  

Lawmakers said the “Restore Our Parks Act” would help with repairs nationwide.  

Senator Rob Portman said repairs to National Park resources are long overdue 

“In the case of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we have leakage in our visitor’s center, we have a bridge that is falling apart,” said Senator Portman (R – Ohio). “If you don’t fix these things now the costs only mount.”

Currently the National Park Service (NPS) faces a nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog. Senator Mark Warner said nearly one billion dollars is needed for upgrades to roads and historic buildings in Virginia.

“It’s sacrificing our history, our legacy,” said Sen. Warner (D-Virginia).

Senators Warner and Portman are part of a bipartisan effort to restore national parks and reduce the agency’s debt.

“What we need to do is come up with realistic way to find the revenue sources to solve that problem going into the future” said Congressman Rob Bishop (R- Utah).

Supporters said the “Restore Our Parks Act” would cut the park service’s backlog in half over the next several years by using money from oil and gas revenues to pay down the park service’s debt.

“It’s been estimated that if we do this Restore Our Parks Act, it would generate about 10,000 additional jobs in terms of the maintenance that would be taking place,” Warner said. 

Supporters said the plan is backed by both parties and the Trump administration. However last year a similar measure stalled in Congress. Warner said our nation’s most valuable resources are at risk and lawmakers can’t afford to wait any longer.

“Even in a dysfunctional Washington, this should be a no brainer,” Warner said. 

President Trump declared Friday, “Military Spouses Day” as a way to recognize military spouses and the sacrifices they make.

Military life is no picnic for families as they move from base to base. It can be hard for spouses to find good jobs, even tougher to build a career. Members of Congress have introduced legislation to make it easier for military spouses to continue careers.

Brittany Boccher is a military spouse who works in education. 

“I know the mission comes first, so we move roughly every two to three years,” said Brittany Boccher, a military spouse from Arkansas

Boccher lives in Arkansas but when her husband transfers from base to base, she has to leave her career behind.

“Sacrificing what I worked hard to achieve, and I am not the only one,” she said.

Second Lady Karen Pence’s son serves in the Marines. She said employment challenges hurt military spouses and their families.

“Spouses are the backbone of the military families, and they contribute directly to the strength and readiness of our troops,” Pence said. 

Lawmakers said as a result of transfers, many military spouses are either unemployed or underemployed. There’s now a bipartisan effort to make it easier for families to make a living.

“It authorizes the Pentagon to help states create uniform standards for occupational licenses that military spouses need,” said Senator Tom Cotton, (R- Arkansas). 

Senator Cotton and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire) are co-sponsors of the “Portable Certification of Spouses Act.”

“It will ease the burdens that military spouses face as they practice their professions and move their businesses across the country,” Shaheen said. 

The bill would establish a universal standard for fields like teaching, nursing and other licensed professions and help the spouses keep their careers.

“You are giving them the gift to have their family and fulfill their calling through their career.”

Defense Department officials said happy families help keep our military men and women focused on their jobs.

Next week, Second Lady Karen Pence is hosting an event with neary 50 companies to help connect military families with job opportunities.

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — The 2019 National Teacher of the Year doesn’t teach in what you would call a traditional setting.

Rodney Robinson teaches at a juvenile detention center in Richmond, Virginia. Some of his students face serious charges, but Robinson says he treats them all with respect. Robinson believes he can help these young people learn from their mistakes and get a second chance at life

“Because most of my kids have committed crimes and may have a felony on their records,” said Robinson.

Robinson’s history and social studies classes take place inside the Virgie Binford Education Center, a juvenile detention center. He said his kids may have a record but they still have a voice and he teaches them to use it.

“How to get their rights restored and how to advocate for themselves because you need to be able to speak for yourself,” Robinson said. “Because no one can tell your story better than you.” 

Robinson is the third educator from Virginia to receive the National Teacher of the Year award. His efforts are bringing national attention to important issues, including overcoming the school-to-prison pipeline.

“The work that he does working with those children is especially powerful,” said Congressman Donald McEachin, (D-Va.).

McEachin honored Robinson for his leadership skills and for being an inspiration beyond the classroom. 

“He’s not only visiting our children in prison, he is teaching our children in prison and imparting wisdom on our children in prison. There has got to be a special place in heaven for him,” said Rep. McEachin.

Robinson said he’s just doing his job.

“I’m just a little boy from King William, Virginia and now I am the National Teacher of the Year. I just want all kids to know that you can do it,” said Robinson.

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — This year’s National Day of Prayer comes just days after the latest shooting at a place of worship. President Trump consoled religious leaders from across America and condemned attacks against places of worship.

“We’ve seen evil and hate-filled attacks on communities around the world,” said President Trump.

Less than a week before Thursday’s event at the White House, one person was killed and three injured at a California synagogue. Among those in attendance was Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who survived that attack.

“I was in the line of fire, bullets flying, my fingers were blown off, but I didn’t stop” said Rabbi Goldstein.

Goldstein encouraged Americans to use the power of prayer to teach kindness and help communities heal.

“We need to go back to the basics and introduce a moment of silence in public schools,” he said.

President Trump said his adminstration won’t remain silent and called for an end to acts of violence and terrorism.

“We will fight with all our strength, and everything that we have in our bodies to end anti-semitism, to end the attacks on Jewish people, and to conquer all forms of persecution, intolerance and hate,” Trump said. 

Lawmakers from both parties said prayers arent enough to stop the violence. They said the political rhetoric from the White House all the way to the dining room table of American homes must be toned down.

“Not only as elected leaders, but also as individual citizens,” said Congressman Scott Perry (R) Pennsylvania. “Respect one another even though we might disagree with each other.” 

Congressman Donald McEachin (D-Va.) said the president must lead by example. 

“We’d much rather see a sermon than hear a sermon. The president would do well to cut back on his language of violence and his language of dividing people,” said Rep. McEachin.

The White House said it’s committed to strenghtening our nation and said it will take a united effort to move forward.

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — May is “Mental Health Month” and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is launching a new campaign to help prevent veteran suicides.  Veterans are committing suicide at an alarming rate.

Federal leaders said they are committed to providing more funding and passing legislation to help. But those resources alone may not be enough to stop the problem.

Too many service members who win the fight on the battlefield return home to lose the battle against depression and other mental enemies. 

“There was some self destructive behavior having to do with alcohol,” said Army veteran David Lucier.

RELATED: Veterans’ suicides at VA facilities are apparent protests against poor care, advocates say

Lucier survived Vietnam but said he struggled to overcome mental health challenges.

Mental health concerns are an issue causing many veterans to take their own life.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito said she wants to make sure the VA has the resources it needs to bring rising suicide rates down. 

“Support to get professionals in the mental health area,” Capito said. 

Veterans Affairs leaders said they’ve hired roughly 3,900 mental health professionals over the past year. But VA officials said help from Congress and even the president isn’t enough. 

“It’s a complex issue and it’s definitely an issue of feeling connected and safe to reach out for help,” said Dr. Christopher Loftis, Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Christopher Loftis said the VA launched its new “The Moment When” campaign as a way to encourage veterans to not be ashamed or embarrassed to get help and encourages family members to support those efforts.

Lucier recalls being vulnerable until his relative stepped in.

“My youngest sister came to me and said ‘you know it doesn’t have to be this way,'” Lucier said. 

Lucier now hopes sharing his message helps save another veteran’s life.