Office of the Governor Rick Perry

American Legion Convention

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Friday, July 08, 2005  •  Speech

Thank you, Commander Brieden.  It’s good to see you, and I appreciate your friendship over the past 30-plus years...
...as well as your service to America and the American Legion.

Commander Matthews... Vice Commander Morris... Commander Simmons... my fellow members of the American Legion:...
...it is the highest of honors to be here with the men and women who have answered the call of their nation in times of war...
...and purchased freedom for America on the field of battle. 

Today I bring the sincere thanks of 22 million Texans who know that they are free because you were brave.

About a month ago I had the distinct privilege of participating in the changing of the guard ceremony for the Texas National Guard...
...as Adjutant General Wayne Marty retired and passed the mantle of leadership to Major General Charles Rodriguez.

That day I couldn’t help but be struck by the significance and symbolism of the event. 
It was a tangible example of an American tradition that has taken place throughout this nation’s history...
...as a new generation accepts the torch of freedom from a previous one...
...standing upon their legacy...
...and advancing freedom’s cause to even greater heights.

The legacy our fighting men and women stand upon today is one that is strong. 

It is a legacy of millions of American servicemen and women who rose to great challenges and paid a great cost to bring freedom to oppressed peoples around the globe. 

It is a legacy that lives on in hearts of free people in South Korea, Japan and Kuwait...
...in Germany, Italy, the Eastern Block and countless places the United States has confronted evil with courage.

You... the veterans of this nation... have given birth to a great legacy by bearing every burden bestowed upon you by this great nation.
And though freedom’s protectors change with the years...
...America’s mission remains constant:...
...to keep the light of liberty illuminated for generations of Americans yet to be born. 

Today our military forces continue the American tradition of defending freedom in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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. 

Yesterday morning the world was reminded once again that our enemy is one who wears no uniform...
...who makes no distinction between innocent civilians and professional soldiers...
...who places no value on human life...
...no limit on their cruelty.


Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Great Britain who suffered a tragic loss at the hands of terrorist enemies. 

But as America mourns with our great friend and ally...
...we also renew our resolve to be vigilant at home and relentless abroad as we hunt down, dismantle and destroy the terrorist organizations that are a cancer on the civilized world.

They who kill for the cause of darkness have neither the moral courage nor the resolve to outlast those willing to give their lives for the light of 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 answered by every American veteran...
...and upholding the same sacred oath to defend freedom no matter the cost.

The character of our country is most clearly found in the courage of our veterans. 

We observe holidays like Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and the anniversary of D-Day because great deeds should always be honored. 

But our responsibility goes far beyond celebration and remembrance. 

We must make sure every veteran returns from the field of battle to live a life of dignity...
...with access to the healthcare and benefits promised when they made their own promise to defend this nation.

I was glad to see Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson in Texas yesterday touring two of our VA hospitals...
    ...including one in Waco under consideration for closure.

Our VA hospitals are critical for Texas veterans... and I join members of our congressional delegation in encouraging the federal government to keep our facilities open so that America keeps its promise to every Texas veteran.
In the recent legislative session, Texas took an important step to recognize the service of our veterans by passing a bill that will help servicemen and women gain the skills and training needed to be successful in the civilian workplace.

And today I am proud to ceremonially sign House Bill 2604 because it will help more Texas veterans find good jobs and make the most of the freedom they have provided for every American.

I appreciate the work of the authors of this important piece of legislation...
...including Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who joins us here today.

Because of her leadership, Texas will now give preference to veterans seeking job training and employment assistance from the state. 

And we are transferring these programs to the Texas Veterans Commission so that they will be administered by those who best know the needs of our veterans...
...and so that veterans can turn to a single source for help instead of several government agencies.
While we can never repay our veterans for the service and sacrifices they have made on our behalf...
...the least we can do is help them return home to a life of dignity...
...where their health and employment needs are met...
...and their families taken care of. 

And this bill is an important symbol of the larger commitment Texas has made and will keep in the future to ensure that every veteran has access to all of freedom’s opportunities.

(transition)

33 years ago... fresh out of college... I began a life of public service as a C-130 pilot in the United States Air Force...
...or as President Bush likes to say, as a trash hauler. 

We flew lower and slower than the fighter pilots...
...but at least we could get up and walk around and get a cup of coffee.

Those four and a half years taught me a lot about myself…
...about the importance of service…
...and about how special a nation America is…
...that Shining City on the Hill as President Reagan so eloquently put it. 

But nothing demonstrated this more than the man I call dad…
...a World War II tailgunner who flew 35 missions over war-torn Europe in 1944 and 1945.

He was part of the greatest generation…
...those who confronted great evil with great courage…
...who liberated millions without claiming one ounce of foreign soil except that which was suitable to bury their fallen friends.

Those great heroes didn’t do it for glory or fame or medals…
...but because they had a sense of decency…
...a sense of purpose…
...and an understanding that freedom is not free.

The freedom we have today is not the gift of academics, poets or politicians…
...it is the gift of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines…
...those who fought for inches of divided soil…
...who dropped behind enemy lines outnumbered and outgunned…
...who took to the air and the seas not knowing if the present mission would be their last.

The free air we breathe they have purchased. 

The rights we espouse they have protected. 

The liberty we cherish they have granted. 

To all of you who have answered the call of duty…
...who have stood in harm’s way to protect the American Way…
...I offer the salute of an indebted son and a grateful governor.

May you live every day you have left with pride, dignity and honor. 

You have earned it.  And may the rest of us never forget it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

(pause for applause)

At this time, it is my honor to sign House Bill 2604 into law.

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