Thank you, General Mayorga, and thank you all for having me here today.
It's an honor to welcome the National Guard to Texas.
Now if I could just get about 1,000 of you to stick around after this convention wraps up and help us secure our southern border we'd be in great shape.
Unfortunately, Texas is getting just a little more than 20% of the Guard troops that Washington recently decided to send south although we account for about 64% of America's border with Mexico so I'll just keep asking.
During my time in the Air Force, I was always told the squeaky wheel gets the grease so I'll keep calling for the Guard because I know you'll get the job done, and done right.
My calls for troops have gotten more impassioned lately as we see more indications that the drug-related violence plaguing northern Mexico is spilling over the border into Texas. With more than 28,000 dead in Mexico due to drug-related violence since 2006 there can be no doubt the stakes are high.
I don't need a Washington briefing to tell me that the car bombs going off across the Rio Grande the cartels recruiting teenage Texans as hitmen and bullets from shootouts hitting UT -Brownsville and El Paso's city hall are signs that things are going from bad to worse.
America needs swift action and sufficient resources to protect our border communities and the families who call them home.
I truly believe that National Guard troops are an essential part of that solution.
Now, we do our best here in Texas to stand in the border security gap devoting more than $230 million to border security over the past several years relying on sheriffs, local police, DPS troopers and even game wardens to be our boots on the ground.
However, I believe the unique and diverse capabilities that the Guard can bring to bear are essential to our continued success against a threat that readily adapts to our methods.
I wonder if any force is able to adapt as well as the Guard can.
On any given day, you might be filling sandbags as rising floodwaters threaten your hometown mounting patrols in a combat zone overseas or doing the countless drills and exercises required to maintain readiness.
There was a time long, long ago when active duty military folks might have used the term "weekend warrior" to describe their counterparts in the Guard but we all know it's pretty much a full-time gig.
Military service isn't just a switch that you can turn on and off.
There is something that motivates our fighting men and women a devotion to a higher calling.
In my mind, 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 teach in our public schools but someone who will face incoming fire to set people free is on a whole other plane.
As our Guard forces are deployed around the world, including two still-dangerous combat zones we are reminded of 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.
Commentators have called the men and women who fought in World War II the "greatest generation" and they were right to do so.
However, this decade of engagement in the war on terror and our armed forces' high level performance are introducing America to a new "greatest generation."
Of course, the reward for competence is more work and our Guard has overcome every challenge with the usual combination of enthusiasm, skill and perseverance.
As the demands on the Guard remain at a historically high level America should muster a proportionate degree of support for the men and women who serve in the ranks.
For example, it's time for folks mobilized in a Title 32 status to get credit for that time when it comes to the benefits of the post-9/11 GI bill.
Here in Texas, folks utilizing the GI Bill for their education are entitled to in-state tuition rates as are their spouses and children thanks to legislation we passed in 2009.
I'm not saying anyone needs an extra reason to move to Texas but that'll certainly do.
When it comes to other Guard issues, we need to ensure our troops have the right gear along with the proper facilities to maintain it and train on it.
I can't confirm whether or not the C-130s I flew around in the early "70s are still out there in the fleet but I know that the list of gear and facilities that need updating is a long one. The buzzword is "recapitalization" and it is definitely necessary in the Air Guard just as funding for repair projects is necessary for Guard installations all across the country.
We also need to ensure we're accounting for the human cost of our military ventures and taking care of our troops when they return from combat.
No one knows better than you that an IED doesn't discriminate between active duty and Guardsmen when administering massive brain trauma.
Whether a returning veteran carries a visible wound or one that lies a little deeper they deserve our support.
As beneficiaries of their sacrifice, we all have a role to play in ensuring our veterans move smoothly from the field of battle to a life of dignity.
During the last legislative session, Texas authorized measures to help returning veterans deal with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries. I also signed a bill that created mental health programs for veterans including those in which veterans help each other through veteran-to-veteran, or vet-to-vet, groups.
I also worked with the Legislature and our health agencies to secure an additional $5 million to supplement the $1.2 million from the state budget to expand mental health treatment and support programs for veterans and their families.
Our veterans are also benefiting from the VA claims processing team that we created to help clear their backlog of claims.
Here in Texas, we are not only obligated to support our veterans and their families, we are honored to do so.
In the months to come, I don't expect the pace of operations to slow down much as Afghanistan continues to boil and storm season continues in the Gulf of Mexico.
These challenges will demand the best of our Guard but they have the benefit of principled leaders like Major General Mayorga here in Texas and his fellow Adjutants General across the country.
They also have the support of organizations like the National Guard Association of Texas and the National Guard Association of the United States under the principled leadership of Major General Bunting.
As I look out across this room full of people who put actions to their values, I want you to know how much I appreciate you and the people of Texas respect you.
No matter what your connection to the Guard, the fact remains that you are making a difference.
You play a role in making our state safer projecting power around the globe and defending the freedom that is a part of our nation's DNA.
If the Guard can be sure of one thing, it's that the phone will ring, and that your states and our nation will continue to rely on you.
As governor, I never hesitate to make that call, because you're always responsive always ready and always rarin' to go as "America's Solution."
May it always be so.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.