Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry: Service Members Make the Ultimate Sacrifice to Preserve Freedom

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Monday, May 31, 2010  •  Houston, Texas  •  Speech

Thank you, James [Nier] and thank you for all you do for our state's veterans.

Today is a solemn day, a moment of remembrance, as we honor the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

Places of honor like these, like Arlington National Cemetery and even the Normandy American Cemetery have a timeless air about them and a still sense of peace that seem out of place in our busy lives.

It is well and good to be here today, to reflect on the harsh realities of war and recall the lives of those who have gone to their final rest after serving their country.

If you were to walk over to section S1, Site 2649 you'd find the gravesite of Jimmie West an Army Staff Sergeant who saved the life of one of my best friends, Jay Kimbrough during a firefight in Vietnam in May, 1967. As Jimmie's does, every single one of the markers on these hallowed grounds tells a story and reflects a life devoted to a higher purpose.

As one who came of age during the Vietnam War, I will admit that my generation was not unified in its regard for those who served but I am proud that America has largely turned the corner in the way it celebrates the members of our military.

As a result, more people may agree with my contention that there is no higher form of public service than wearing the uniform of one's country

Don't get me wrong; I have high admiration for those who dig wells in third world villages or serve in public office but someone who will face incoming fire to set people free is on a whole other plane.

On days of remembrance like this, we celebrate our own freedom won through brutal sacrifice and are humbled. However, I prefer to dwell on the amazing sacrifices our fighting men and women have made throughout our history so that oppressed people all over the world can breathe the rare air of freedom.

I think of Iraqis, their index fingers still purple from the first democratic vote of their lives or the first Afghan girls to publicly attend school in generations because American warriors fought to liberate them.

I think back to the emaciated prisoners in Buchenwald who endured years of degradation, torture and abuse and the relief they must have felt when their Nazi captors fled in fear of Patton's mighty Third Army.

Earlier this year, I had the honor of speaking at a memorial service for a fellow Aggie, Mr. Bill McKenzie who was an officer in that liberating force.

His distinguished service in WW II grew out of his sense of duty...and ultimately informed his lifelong commitment to serving others. Like the vast majority of what has been called the Greatest Generation Bill returned home with a heightened sense of what matters and a desire to make a difference through service.

We are blessed with the emergence of a new greatest generation as our young soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen go boldly in harm's way for the cause of liberty.

They are the latest in a long line of brave Americans stretching back to the Minutemen of Concord who have heeded the call to serve and submitted themselves to the cause of freedom no matter what the cost.

Memorial Day is an essential part of the American experience and a fitting tribute to our war dead.

At its inception, it was called Decoration Day a time to scatter flowers on the graves of fallen warriors. Today, let us carry on that tradition, bringing not only flowers but also the accolades of a new generation as we commemorate such immeasurable sacrifice.

To those interred here and such places across our country as well as those who have are one with the soil on battlefields around the world we salute you and we thank you.

We recall your sacrifice, we honor your service and we pledge to never waver in our commitment to freedom.

We pick up your charge, and vow our eternal vigilance, against the forces of oppression, against incursions on liberty, no matter where they may arise.

As Texans, as Americans, as humans, we can do nothing less.

On this day of remembrance, may God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.


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