Marine Corps League
Thank you, General Weber, for that introduction, for your friendship, and for your service to the Marine Corps and America.
It is the highest of honors to be here with the Marines who have answered the call of their nation and kept America free, as well as the family members whose love and support is essential for all who serve.
Today I bring the sincere gratitude of 22 million Texans who cherish the gift of freedom, and who are proud of the Marines that provided it.
This is an interesting time in our nation’s history.
In many ways it seems familiar.
We are once again fighting a war against evil, a war to liberate the oppressed, and protect the free.
A war that America did not start, but we will finish.
But in other ways, this is a remarkably different time in America.
Since the great conflicts of the last century, warfare has evolved to maximize the benefits of technology, our culture has changed dramatically, and the media messengers who once reported true tales of battlefield bravery no longer seem content with conveying the facts of history.
Having recently traveled to Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, I can tell you that the honor and dignity our troops serve with has not changed one bit.
They are proud to serve their country, and their spirits are high.
They asked me to send a message when I got home.
They said, “Governor, tell the American people the national media has it wrong... we are winning this war.”
I was very proud of what I saw, and especially proud to see so many Texans doing the tough work of freedom.
But while I was there, and as I kept hearing how frustrated our troops are with the way their work is being portrayed back home, something struck me: the reason the American public isn’t getting the full story is because they rarely hear from the story’s authors.
The public hears a lot of perspectives from politicians, professors and protestors on how the job should be done, and if it should be done at all.
But they almost never get the perspective of the ones actually doing the job, or the people who are benefiting from it.
That raises a serious question: if one of our duties as Americans is to remember our history, how will the next generation fulfill that duty if the truth of history isn’t recorded in the first place?
Let me just say this from the perspective of a veteran, the son of a veteran, a governor and an American citizen: those who insist on shading the truth to fit their agenda are doing a serious disservice to this country, its citizens and the troops who protect them.
The men and women who serve and sacrifice, the ones who put their lives on the line for freedom, they are the ones who write history, and they deserve their rightful place of honor on its pages.
Today, we are honored to have with us a Marine who indeed holds a distinct place of honor in our nation’s history, the commander of the most highly decorated unit to fight in a single engagement in Marine Corps history: Major Keith Wells.
(That description alone should tell you that he is an Aggie, class of ’42.)
In 1945, it was then-Lieutenant Wells who led the men of the 3rd Platoon up Mount Suribachi in decisive engagement of the battle of Iwo Jima.
With little support from air, sea or land, they confronted an enemy far superior in number and firepower that had literally been fortifying their position for 20 years.
In the early hours of February 21, Lieutenant Wells began what seemed an impossible charge, not by sounding a horn, or yelling to his men, but by standing up, steeling his nerve, and with courage found on few occasions in human history, moving forward towards the base of the mountain.
His men followed behind, because he led from the front.
They took Suribachi, won the island, and the second World War soon after.
It was not without a tremendous cost.
Of the original 45 members of 3rd Platoon that fought on Iwo Jima, all but four were killed or wounded in action.
Lieutenant Wells was awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross.
And he even has an award named in his honor: the Keith Wells Land Navigation Award, which is presented to a second lieutenant at the culmination of each TBS class.
Today, many Americans know of Iwo Jima only through a few images they have seen on television, or the picture of the Marines raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, signifying a turning point in the fight against fascism.
Unfortunately, most Americans do not realize that there is much, much more to this significant moment in our history, that there was an unspeakable cost paid by those who fought, or even that the famous flag-raising picture was a recreation of the true victory achieved by the men of 3rd Platoon.
Today, we will hear the story of Iwo Jima as told by one of it primary authors, the hero, the proud Marine I am honored to introduce at this time: Major Keith Wells.
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