Thank you, General Mayorga and thank you all for being here.
As the governor of Texas, it is an honor to address the brave men and women of the 36th Infantry Division and the families who sacrifice so much to support you.
In my estimation, the members of the Texas Military Forces truly embody the notion of the citizen-soldier.
Balancing the demands of school or a job, while keeping yourself ready to deploy, is not an easy thing, but you do it with courage and grace.
In the process, you remain an essential part of a fighting force on which our country relies more than ever, a force that makes your fellow Texans proud beyond words.
We're proud to know that soldiers like you, with the T-Patch on your uniforms, will be serving in Iraq as only the third National Guard Division Headquarters to provide command and control over brigades in Iraq
I'll tell you this, folks who know anything about military history will find it very reassuring to hear a Texas accent on the radio.
Since the 36th Infantry Division first distinguished itself in combat on the battlefields of France in World War I, the T-Patchers have been a welcome participant in countless American engagements.
The command history of the 36th includes descriptions of the unit in World War I, like "Their morale was nothing short of superb " and "Their confidence in themselves was amazing "
Those words still ring true today.
Continuing on through World War II, the 36th fought its way across the beaches of Salerno and Anzio, helped liberate prisoners from the Dachau camps, and were fighting in Austria when the Nazi regime finally crumbled.
Those soldiers were part of what has been called the "greatest generation."
However, over the last decade or so, our nation has been blessed with the emergence of a new "greatest generation" and you are part of it.
Since the 36th ID was reconstituted in "04, you have played an essential role in the global war on terror and helped keep us safe.
At the same time, you served and protected your fellow Texans, stepping up in the face of tropical storms, wildfires and the other challenges that have come our way.
You are consistently there when we need you, and on behalf of 24 million Texans, I thank you.
We understand that military service is unlike any other undertaking, and that the dedication required to serve isn't something you can fake.
Our fighting men and women are motivated by something far more powerful than scholarship dollars.
Instead, you follow a higher calling, rooted in the fundamental values of our nation that flow from the undeniable importance of freedom.
Although I sincerely admire folks who serve on the local school board or bring mosquito nets to third world nations, I believe there is no higher form of public service than wearing the uniform of one's country.
Someone who will face incoming fire to set people free is on a whole other plane and deserving of our strongest support.
As our Guard forces are deployed around the world, 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 stained 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.
You played an essential role in that quintessential American mission of liberation and changed the lives of untold thousands.
As you take part in Operation New Dawn, the legacy of this division will be strengthened further, as you take your place a line of warriors that stretches back to the Minutemen of Concord.
Know that, in your absence, we will pray for you and continue to support your families.
If you are bidding farewell to a loved one and staying behind in the states, I strongly encourage you to stay connected to the families around you and the support team here in Texas.
The pain of separation is real and it doesn't get any easier to fix a broken dishwasher just because your husband or wife is serving their country overseas.
So rely on one another, lean on your support services and dial 211 if you need information on state resources that can help you.
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 Iraq simmers and Afghanistan continues to boil, while storm season continues in the Gulf of Mexico.
These challenges will demand the best of our Guard, but you have the benefit of principled leaders like Major General Mayorga here in Texas and Major General Spurgin in Iraq, as he leads the first headquarters deployment for the 36th since World War II.
Knowing GEN Spurgin is an Aggie should only make everyone in here more confident of your chances of success.
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.
As governor, I know that I can pick up the phone and the Guard will respond with action, because you're always responsive, always ready, and always rarin' to go as "America's Solution."
May it always be so.
So, in closing, I want to thank you all for your willingness to serve and your devotion to your fellow man.
We salute you and we thank you.
We pledge our support to the families you leave behind.
As Texans, as Americans, as human beings, we can do nothing less.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.