Thank you, Christopher [Burnett], for that introduction, and for those memorable words about the heroes we're here today to honor.
It's a privilege to be here with you for this year's Star of Texas Awards, among so many who have given so much in service to their fellow Texans.
It's difficult to believe that more than 12 years have passed since the events of September 11, 2001.
The wreckage of the planes has been cleaned away, the Pentagon has been rebuilt, and a new tower is rising above the New York skyline on the site where the Twin Towers once stood.
It's been a time of healing, a time of rebuilding, and a time of rebirth.
But the events of that day truly changed our nation.
We better understand the dangers of global threats.
We better understand the need to be prepared for any eventuality.
And we better understand the extraordinary sacrifices made every day by our nation's first responders.
The echoes of the footsteps taken by New York's firefighters and police officers up the stairwells at the World Trade Center continue to reverberate today.
They can be heard in the desperation of every emergency call, in the voice on the other side of the door during an attempt to serve a warrant, and behind the wheel of a "routine" traffic stop that might not be that routine at all.
Texas' first responders know there is no such thing as "routine"... Not in their jobs.
As such, they demonstrate the kind of bravery we witnessed on Nine-Eleven each and every day they go to work.
That certainly was the case in West this past [Spring], when fire broke out at a fertilizer business.
Not only did the community's volunteer firefighters respond, so did paramedic trainees, and a Dallas chief who lived in the area.
That certainly was the case as Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann arrived to serve an eviction notice in College Station, only to come under fire of the resident inside.
Constable Bachmann was killed, and three other peace officers wounded in the shootout before the gunman could be brought down.
And that was certainly the case near Hillcroft last May, when a five-alarm blaze at the Southwest Inn Motel claimed the lives of four firefighters, including probationary firefighter Anne Sullivan, who was working just her second fire.
Anyone in this room knows, however, that this calling. This noble service carries with it a great element of danger.
They understand that placing yourself in harm's way will sometimes carry a cost.
These individuals we lost over the past year lived with that understanding, but it was part of living lives of meaning.
They were part of a higher calling, and like the other honorees here with us today, they helped make Texas a safer, stronger and better place to live.
To those of you with us today who were injured in pursuit of your duties: you have the gratitude, and respect, of an entire state.
To those who have lost loved ones: I can only imagine the pain you continue to feel, but I hope you understand that the contributions of your fallen loved one, your fallen hero, helped spare countless others from the type of pain you've experienced. Know that they lived in the most noble fashion possible, placing the lives of others above their own safety.
The Texans we honor here today are the best our state has to offer; people for whom honor, courage and dedication are a way of life.
They're the people who exemplify the meaning of "love thy neighbor"; the people we can always count on.
Most importantly, they are Texans, and we take great pride in honoring them today.
May God bless you, may He speed your healing, and through you, may God continue to bless the Great State of Texas.