FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 8, 2006
Every year we honor the thousands who have served their country on Veterans Day with speeches, parades, dinners and special services. The years when Americans are engaged in conflict overseas make this holiday particularly poignant.
It is reported that for 2006 alone, Texas has lost over 40 service members, and at least 233 since the war began in 2003. Over 30 soldiers from the Rio Grande Valley or with roots to this area have succumbed since the war's inception.
As we contemplate Veterans Day, the state should consider the need to honor this particular group of soldiers with a special tribute. It would indeed be fitting to erect a memorial on the grounds of our state Capitol with the names of our fallen Iraqi War soldiers, and also those who fought in Afghanistan to end the oppression that prevented the people of that country from voting and precluded women from most rights.
As a South Texas Senator, I've met with the grieving families of those killed in the ongoing Iraqi war. It pains me to feel their sorrow, and to know that we have lost and continue to lose the finest men and women that Texas has to offer. It is difficult to know how to even begin repaying that type of sacrifice. This is one reason for Veterans Day, but there is always much more we can do even years after the last battle is fought.
George Canning, a member of the British Parliament in the 1700-1800s, once remarked, "When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?"
One day, hopefully soon, the War in Iraq will be another of this nation's past perils, and we must memorialize the great sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Iraqi War era.
This effort should, of course, not overshadow the imminent needs of all our South Texas veterans. It is very disconcerting to think of the men and women who are returning with physical and emotional scars that require extensive mental and physical therapy, as well as other specialized medical care, and it may not be available.
A high priority for our South Texas veterans returning from Iraq and for our longer-time veterans is accessible, affordable and appropriate medical care closer to home. Our veterans have traveled many miles to protect our shores; they don't need to travel many miles again just to obtain needed medical attention.
I commend the individuals and groups, especially America's Last Patrol (ALP), who are holding walks, marches and rallies to gain the attention and approval from Washington for a hospital here. The most recent and impressive activity towards this goal was ALP's march from Brownsville to Roma, commemorating last year's march to San Antonio.
Every time we reach a goal we provide needed and deserved services for our 50,000 veterans living here. Just recently, we met one of these critical needs. On Nov. 3, I participated in the dedication ceremony of our first State Veterans Cemetery in Mission for South Texas veterans and their spouses. Our veterans were instrumental in helping us work with the General Land Office and other government entities that spanned from the military and federal levels to the state and local. I felt a deep sense of pride and appreciation to consecrate this solemn land a week before Veterans Day and two months after laying my Father to rest, a proud World War II veteran.
In the Legislature, we continue to exert great effort to both help and honor our veterans. As I've mentioned before, last year, during the 79th legislative session, we expanded the Hazelwood Act, which allows for tuition and fee exemptions for military personnel, including all persons honorably discharged, who served for more than 180 days during the ongoing war on terror.
The Texas Purple Heart, among other military honors, is a recognition we created in the Legislature to honor qualified individuals in the Texas National Guard for service to their state and country.
I am most thankful that our federal government reserved Nov. 11 as Veterans Day-a holiday first dedicated to honor World War I veterans-so that we never forget the sacrifices made by thousands of service men and women through the years. Honoring our veterans is tantamount to celebrating our nation's freedom, which wouldn't have survived without their heroics. Happy Veterans Day!
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.