Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks To The American Legion Convention

Corpus Christi, June 27, 2008

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Friday, June 27, 2008  •  Corpus Christi, Texas  •  Speech

Thank you, Commander Dillard. It's good to see you, and I congratulate you on your leadership of this fine organization. Chaplain Klee, Judge Neal, Chief Matthews, my fellow members of the American Legion, greetings. It is an honor to be here with the men and women who have answered our nation's call in times of war, defended freedom on the field of battle, and spoken loudly on behalf of those who defend us today. I bring with me the sincere thanks of more than 23 million Texans who breathe free because you answered the call to serve.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of visiting the beaches of Normandy on the 64th anniversary of the D-Day landings. It was my second visit to that hallowed ground, but I was still humbled to the point of silence by the memories that wash over that place. As I contemplated the vertical cliffs of Point du Hoc that could not deter Earl Rudder and his boys, as I surveyed the deadly fields of fire from a German gun emplacement, and gazed upon the rows of white markers in the Normandy American Cemetery, I was reminded of the unbelievable sacrifice that our troops have made in the pursuit of freedom throughout our history.

I was also struck by the fact that, during that week of remembrance, another six members of our armed forces gave their lives in pursuit of freedom for Iraq. That group included two Texans: Army Specialist Jonathan Emard of Mesquite, and Army Specialist Quincy Green of El Paso. My time at Normandy, combined with the passing of six of our soldiers in a faraway land some 64 years later, reminded me that America always has been and always will be in the freedom business.

Freedom is the heartbeat of our nation, from the Minutemen who faced skirmish lines of redcoats in Massachusetts in 1775, to our brave men and women keeping the peace in Korea and Bosnia, to those still fighting to establish order in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout our nation's history, each generation has stepped forward to accept the torch of freedom from those who preceded them, stood upon their legacy, and advanced the cause of liberty to even greater heights. The legacy of our fighting men and women are millions of people who have breathed the rare air of freedom after lives spent under the heel of an oppressor. It is a legacy built through humble service, bravery and commitment to the highest ideals.

You, the veterans of this nation, have fortified this great legacy by answering the call. Though the names of freedom's protectors change over the years, America's mission remains constant, to keep the light of liberty burning for generations of Americans yet to be born. And like the American heroes of the previous century, our Armed Forces are rising to the occasion and getting the job the done.

Though the enemy they face is different in many ways, the world has seen their kind before, the sort who spills the blood of innocents to gain and maintain illegitimate power. Fortunately, those who kill for the cause of darkness have neither the moral courage nor the resolve to outlast those who are willing to trade their life for freedom. America is proud of the job our men and women in uniform are doing overseas and here at home. They are answering the same call heard by every American veteran, and upholding the same sacred oath to defend freedom no matter the cost.

I am so very grateful for the efforts you make as an organization to help the veterans who join your ranks every day. Programs like Heroes to Hometowns, in which you identify needs and coordinate resources in local communities before service members and their families come home. Paul [Dillard], your January visit to Converse where you handed out eleven $500 checks did not go unnoticed by people across our state. Programs like the Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance program, which has been helping the families of disabled veterans for over eighty years, handed out more than half a million dollars to 1,200 children just last year. Programs like the Frank Fields Project in East Texas where the good people of District 3 raised the funds needed to buy a modified van for Mr. Fields, a vet who lost both legs to an Iraqi IED. Amazingly, Fields took the money that was left over from purchasing the van and donated half of it to help other wounded vets. Where do we find selfless people like these?

Our military finds them in simple homes all over Texas, on farms, in the suburbs and the inner city. And, year after year, we find them in American Legion halls all over Texas and all across America. The common thread is a commitment to something bigger than ourselves, a sense of the eternal in the everyday, and that uniquely American belief in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I thank you for your ongoing support of our veterans, and I hope you will continue to recruit volunteers to help our veterans, not just from your ranks, but also from your neighborhoods, churches and workplaces. The freedom we enjoy in each of those places was won for us by veterans, so you should tell everyone you meet there what they can do to help. I also hope you will join me in spreading the word to employers all over Texas to consider veterans when they are hiring. The Texas Veterans Commission does this everyday through its Veterans Employment Services program. Moreover, Tom Pauken and his team at the Texas Workforce Commission are also working diligently to launch a program that will assist returning Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Their goal is to provide resource and referral services so that returning Veterans can connect with appropriate employment training and other veteran services. We will work to make sure you stay in the loop and can help us spread the word when the program begins. The American Legion is also an important part of our state's military readiness. Now, you might scratch your head at that notion, trying to remember the last time you picked up a rifle. But your efforts to educate the public on the importance of military service make a difference.

Texas is an essential part of our nation's defense. With Army bases like Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Air Force bases like Lackland, Marine reservists in Fort Worth, or the Navy here in Corpus Christi and Ingleside, we have a lot of men and women serving their country. And more are headed this way. As our nation's armed forces grow to meet challenges around the world, Texas will play host to new units including two new Infantry Brigade Combat Teams at Fort Bliss. As the global war on terror continues, the need for state-of-the art training will increase. That is why the Texas Air National Guard recently "stood up" a new Intelligence Unit at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo.

As those forces expand, the American Legion's importance will continue to grow. I encourage you to stand tall for what you believe, knowing that the soldier of today will face your challenges of living tomorrow. I encourage you to continue reaching out to members of our active duty, Guard and Reserve and encourage them as they serve. And I implore you to tell the story of your own service, so that the next generation can understand the realities of this world and be ready, as you did, to take a stand.

Thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your dedication to our armed forces. And thank you for loving our great state. I pray that God will bless you and that He will continue to bless the great state of Texas.

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