Thank you, Bill [Melton, Master of Ceremony] for that introduction. Mayor Leppert, it's nice to welcome Admiral Walsh back to Dallas, as proof of the great people this city and state can produce.
It's an honor to be here in the company of so many veterans, including those who, like my father, fought to conquer the Axis powers in World War II. Throughout our country's history, we've been blessed by those willing to take up arms in our nation's defense.
From the brave souls who weathered a bitter winter in Valley Forge, to those who fought and died on the black sands of Iwo Jima, to the young men and women patrolling the dangerous provinces of Afghanistan as we speak, America's toughest battles have been fought by our best and brightest. As a result, oppressed people all over the world have breathed the rare air of freedom.
Think of Iraqis, with their index fingers 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.
Remember the emaciated prisoners in Buchenwald who endured years of degradation, torture and abuse, and imagine the relief they 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.
Today, young Americans are following in your footsteps, taking the fight to terrorists around the globe, and keeping our homeland safe. Like you were, today's fighting men and women are motivated by something far more powerful than a paycheck. It's a higher calling, rooted in the fundamental values of our nation, that flows from the undeniable importance of freedom.
Although I sincerely admire folks who serve on the local school board or work in city government, 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 different plane and deserving of our strongest support, as they fight, and when they return.
That's why Texas has extended in-state college tuition rates to eligible veterans and their families, and made Hazelwood benefits transferable from military members killed or completely disabled in the line of duty to their spouses.
We've also authorized measures to help returning veterans deal with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries and created mental health programs for veterans, including veteran-to-veteran, or vet-to-vet, groups. Our veterans are also benefiting from the VA claims processing team, that we created to help clear their backlog of claims.
These efforts are part of our state's commitment to those who risked the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom. Just this week, my wife, your First Lady, released a public service announcement, encouraging veterans and their families to dial 2-1-1, to learn about the programs Texas offers to veterans in need.
Here in Texas, we understand and appreciate the sacrifices you have made for us and consider it an honor to support you.
So, to all our veterans assembled here today, and at events all across this great state of ours, I say thank you. Whether you fought in WW II or just returned from the Middle East, Texas is grateful for your distinguished service.
As we spend this Veteran's Day reflecting on your sacrifice, I am reminded of a quote from the man I consider America's greatest president, Ronald Reagan.
He said "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
On behalf of some 24 million Texans, I say "thank you' for that precious gift of freedom, for this generation and for all those that follow.
May God bless you, and, through you, may He continue to bless the great State of Texas.