Thank you, Commander Corbin for that introduction.
It's a pleasure to be amongst my fellow Legionnaires again.
You might've heard that earlier this week, I announced I wasn't running for re-election.
That means in 18 months or so, I'll be done being the Governor of Texas but I'm happy to report I'll be a Legionnaire for life.
I love these events because it brings together individuals of all backgrounds from all across our state all beliefs and ideologies.
The one overriding thing we have in common is an understanding of what it means to serve the United States of America in the most profound way possible.
We all served in different ways in different places, coordinating supply deliveries on the home front during World War II carving accessible roads into the twisted jungles of Vietnam or fighting house-to-house on the streets of Iraq.
No matter how or where we served as Legionnaires, we each represent the enduring American mission to promote Americans' security and spread freedom around the world.
It's a mission that continues to this day.
The principles of liberty and opportunity that have made our nation the greatest in the world have also made us a target for those who hate people who use fear and death to spread their own twisted view of the world.
As we've seen in faraway places like London and Afghanistan and in places closer to home, like Boston and Fort Hood the forces of terror everywhere will continue to try to intimidate and kill Americans, our allies and anyone who loves freedom.
As long as evil continues to target the innocent...our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines will continue to hunt them down.
Legionnaires understand the kind of sacrifice a mission like that requires...and they understand the difficulties a veteran can face upon returning home.
As part of our proud military tradition, Texas is dedicated to making that transition as easy as possible to repaying the debt we owe every returning hero.
That's an obligation too big for any one state even one as big as Texas but we have made inroads over the past decade.
During my time in office, I've been honored to sign legislation that helped exempt 100 percent disabled veterans from paying property taxes later expanded to include their surviving spouses.
This session, with voter approval, we will further extend that property tax exemption to spouses of military members who were killed in action.
We also provided much-needed tax relief to our wounded warriors so they wouldn't be forced to pay exorbitant taxes on homes built for and donated to them by charitable organizations.
I've been to the ribbon-cuttings for some of these homes and I can tell you, first-hand, how much good they do for the veterans and their families.
We're also continuing our commitment to those currently snarled in mountains of red tape by the V.A.
The stories of the staggering backlog of veterans' health and disability claims waiting to be addressed have unfortunately grown so routine that some overlook just how fundamentally wrong they are.
Our veterans who answered the call when their nation needed them are now stuck on hold waiting for someone to get back to them.
Since 2009, Texas has invested millions in a State Strike Force and Fully Developed Claims Teams initiative at the Texas Veterans Commission, helping address the extreme backlog of Texas-based claims.
These teams have helped ensure paperwork is completed and has helped expedite some of the most serious claims.
In the most recent budget I signed, we committed the resources to make sure this good work continues until every veteran is getting the help they need and have earned in service to this country.
We've also established programs to help veterans successfully return to the workforce and allowed them to receive credit at our colleges and universities for the skills they learned in the military.
These are bright, energetic, and dedicated men and women the kind of people who can truly make a positive difference in any workplace doing any kind of work.
As important as these jobs are to our veterans and their families it's in the best interests of our communities, and our state, to have them making the most of their ample skills and talents.
I was raised by a veteran of the Second World War a man who served as a tailgunner in the European theater.
I myself served during the Vietnam era flying C-130s around the world.
Throughout my life, I've witnessed the quality of character exhibited by those who serve.
In my capacity as governor, I've been blessed to meet many of the current generation of America's warriors, many of them in hospitals recovering from wounds they suffered in roadside bombings or hillside firefights.
The year may be different and the nature of their war may have changed, but when it comes to the quality of their character and the drive to serve their country the strength of this generation's heroes is unchanged.
I suppose, if you put your mind to it, you could trace it all the way back to the first warriors who defended our nation, just over 237 years ago.
Like today's service members like everyone in this room the heroes of July 1776 were willing to risk everything on something that was little more than an idea the concept that a nation could truly be based on freedom.
More than a nation, America is an inspiration to the world and also to the people who live here.
It inspires us all to greatness and to our best, it inspires them to serve.
All this time later, we continue to enjoy the blessings of our liberty.
And, through the sacrifices of our armed forces and the contributions of organizations like the American Legion those blessings of liberty will continue to ring for generations, and centuries to come.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.