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Governor Perry Speaks at the Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund Retiree Barbecue

Location: Houston, TX

Thank you, Todd [Clark, Chairman, HFRRF], for that introduction.

I'm truly honored to be with a group of people who have devoted their lives to protecting their fellow citizens.Over the years, I've been consistently impressed with the bravery and dedication of Texas firefighters in crisis situations all across the state.

Whether it's raging brushfires and their constantly-shifting winds a deranged loner flying a single-engine plane into a building or accidents on our roadways that demand an instant response Texas firefighters are in demand and always ready.

As part of our state's first responder community you embody a unique spirit of service that Texas tradition of "neighbor helping neighbor."

You could call that the spirit of America but I believe it's even stronger in Texas and motivates us to go the extra mile for one another.

When Texas encounters a crisis, that spirit emerges with ranchers making room for a neighbor's livestock when fires threaten with volunteers fueling up their chain saws when high winds topple trees and citizens opening their homes to provide shelter to coastal residents fleeing advancing storms.

That spirit, which helps make Texas the best place to live, work and raise a family, is embodied in our firefighters.

When you act to limit the loss of a local business, or a home full of cherished memories you protect families, strengthen our communities and save lives, Anyone who's been in an accident suffered a medical emergency or endured a house fire will tell you there is no more welcome sight than one of our state's first responders.

To be honest, I still have a hard time looking at the images of the governor's mansion in flames and I sincerely appreciate the risk that firefighters took to preserve this Texas treasure.

If anyone ever downplays the risks you face as firefighters invite them to the next Star of Texas Awards ceremony to hear the stories of first responders injured or lost in the line of duty.

To me, no other event so clearly conveys your enormous dedication. Meeting these men and women hearing their stories and speaking to their families paints a clear picture of your everyday reality.

In last year's ceremony, we honored two of your own Captain James Harlow and Firefighter Damion Hobbs of the Houston Fire Department who lost their lives battling a house fire on Easter Sunday 2009.

As you know, Harlow was a 30-year veteran and Hobbs was a rookie at his first fire. Their loss reminds us that firefighters face serious danger every day and that fire doesn't play any favorites or honor expertise and experience as it destroys.

No one has a better grasp of the toll that fire takes than you do yet you control those human reflexes that tell you to flee as you race headlong into harm's way.

As if the threat of fire weren't enough, Houston firefighters face the additional challenge common to cities along the Gulf Coast the annual possibility summertime hurricanes.

Just two years ago, Hurricane Ike nearly obliterated Galveston as it geared up to hammer Houston.

Houston's first responders climbed over fallen live oaks and crunched through streets of broken glass as they rescued a city tattered by wind, water and flying debris.

You proved that the Texas approach to emergency management is the gold standard for the nation because we plan for the worst, pray for the best and rely upon the best first-responders in the country.

At the state level, we work to support the local solutions devised by the leaders on the front lines leaders like mayors, county judges, sheriffs and fire chiefs.

It's our job to make sure they have the resources they need seamless communications and innovative logistic support from our private-sector partners.

Of course, the essential element of our approach to crisis is the first responder, and the families that support them.

Fortunately for us, and thanks to you, Texas is blessed with a community of first responders who prepare with rigorous training and remain ever-vigilant then risk their lives to keep us safe.

On behalf of 24 million Texans, I want to thank you for all you've done to protect the people of this wonderful city and our great state.

May God bless you, and, through you, may He continue to bless the Great State of Texas.

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