Helping a Hero

The following are remarks I presented after receiving a Lifetime Achievement award from Helping a Hero at their 2016 volunteer appreciation luncheon in Houston yesterday.

We are all honored to be here today in the presence of genuine heroes. You know, if you call Captain (Dan) Moran or Staff Sergeant (Shilo) Harris heroes, they’ll simply say “I was just doing my job.”

They can deny it, but these men ARE heroes, part of a distinguished line of men and women who spend every moment of their time in the military in a state of perpetual readiness, willing , to pay the price to get the job done!

They’re not just heroes because they raised their right hand and swore their oath. After all, they volunteered to serve our country and go in harm’s way. However, the way they conducted themselves in the field and in the aftermath of their combat injuries are an example of heroism.

They have exhibited heroism in the incredible resolve and discipline they’ve maintained battling back from painful injuries. While the average person might have given up hope, they have persevered, teaching us all a lesson in the process.

They represent the entirety of our nation’s veterans, who not only deserve our heartfelt admiration and respect, but also the chance to work at a fulfilling job as a way to feed their families. They most certainly deserve the finest medical care in the world for the wounds they received on our behalf.

Unfortunately, our country isn’t holding up our end of that deal. In fact, our country isn’t doing a good job of it at all. When I think of last year, when the VA was being pressured to reduce the wait times for veterans needing care, how they simply turned veterans away so they wouldn’t count in their statistics.

Let me tell you, that makes me sick. Those veterans most definitely count to us.

It reminded me of how, back in 2013, I found out, by chance, that more than 63,000 Texas veterans had been waiting for longer than a year for the VA to decide their Disability Claims. One year! That’s unacceptable, so we decided to act. Since Washington wasn’t getting the job done, we tackled the problem Texas-style.

As Captain Moran knows, I told the VA that the State of Texas was going to decide VA eligibility for disability and we were going to fund the process. So I managed to find $10 million in funds in other state accounts. In my view, it was better to ask for forgiveness later. Fortunately, he Speaker and the Governor went along. And we shrank the backlog.

As a former military man myself, I believe the old saying “accountability starts at the top.” Right now, the man at the top is failing our military.

President Obama has not only reduced our military readiness with sizable cuts, he’s also made the world a more dangerous place. For reasons I can’t fathom, Obama and his friends on the left have made it their top priority to appease our traditional rivals. Despite their predictions, this hasn’t made us more popular. Instead, it’s left our country in greater danger than ever.

As a result of Obama’s approach, our allies no longer trust us, and our enemies certainly don’t fear us. That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.

Nowadays, the Russians are hacking our servers, Iran is harassing our Navy and ISIS thumbs their nose at us. Thanks to weakness in our foreign policy posture, the bad guys of the world think this is their chance to take their shot.

This is NOT good, especially for the men and women in our military who will fight those battles for us. What has always been true is still true today: when conflicts arise, we need a strong military at full manning, with the best equipment.

I won’t waste your time with a discussion of the F-35, but I can say our manning is at risk over the long term, precisely because of the way the government has been treating our returning veterans.

With our all-volunteer military, the way we treat our veterans directly affects the number of young men and women who will who raise their right hands and join the U.S. military. Our veterans deserve the best possible care and support. They earned it. We made a bargain, and we owe them!!!

So we also need to send a strong message to this next generation: that our country will have your back, no matter what happens on the battlefield. That’s how America treated the men and women of the “greatest generation.” They came back from WWII to a GI Bill that helped them improve their lot with education that led to an era of American economic strength unmatched in history.

We owe the same level of support to this generation, because they are every bit as brave and committed as any generation, including the “greatest generation.” I should know: My father was a WWII hero.

He was a proud Texan who went about his business, took good care of the airmen under his charge, and flew 85 combat missions over Europe in WWII. He flew those missions in a B-26, a plane so difficult to fly its crews called it “the Widowmaker.”

I never got a chance to hear his stories of those missions, because a drunk driver killed him when I was three. So like a lot of children with veteran parents, I grew up without really knowing my father. That experience, and the loss I felt, have been a driving force in my life…to complete many of the things my dad wanted to accomplish, and to make him PROUD. As an Air Force officer myself, during the Vietnam War, I felt like I had some REALLY big shoes to fill.

When I was Land Commissioner, and when I was Lt. Governor, I had a special commitment to our veterans, and a special connection with the children whose parent had made the ultimate sacrifice. So I went to bat for them providing billions of dollars in below-market rate housing loans for veterans, saving them thousands of dollars a year.

I pushed for new state veterans cemeteries, built in their communities, to honor their memories and support their families.

I may have returned to the private sector, but my passion for our nation’s military, tor its veterans & their families, burns bright in my heart, just as I know it does in yours.

So, I accept this award in the same way that a combat soldier will accept one on behalf of their comrades….who did NOT come home.

I accept this award on behalf of those children, who are growing up today with a hole in their lives, because of a parent’s unshakeable commitment to this country. No matter who you are or what you do, whether , you’re a student, a homemaker, an elected official, or a corporate executive, we have much to do on their behalf.

It’s our job to preserve the sacred trust, between our country and our military, We must never rest , when it comes to giving our veterans the resources, the opportunities and the respect they deserve.

As the Apostle Paul said in Galatians, Chapter 6, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest….if we do not give up.”

The HARVEST our veterans deserve, is proper medical care for their wounds, education for their children and a job to support their families. In the meantime, we must remain vigilant, on edge, ready to fight to protect our great nation.

I know you will. I know I will keep fighting for our veterans until the day I breathe my last, and am reunited with my hero of a dad, my great mom and loving family.

So thank you all. May God bless you…may God bless our troops, , may God Bless Texas, , and may God bless these United States of America!