EIGHTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE — REGULAR SESSION
(SIXTY-SIXTH DAY — Monday, May 25, 2009)
The following remarks regarding SRi1003 were ordered reduced to writing and printed in the Senate Journal:
Senator VanideiPutte:iiMr. President and Members, today, as we celebrate Memorial Day all across our country, there are families that are getting together, there are parades in different communities, there are picnics, and there are solemn ceremonies. Last night in Washington, D.C., we had a wonderful concert and stage and screen actors, and great songs were sung, and families were there. Today, we honor the one million men and women who have died in wartime periods, including the 655,000 wartime battle deaths. Memorial Day used to be a very solemn day of mourning. In fact, it was a sacred day of remembrance where everyone in the United States wore black or black armbands. And it was to remember and to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed for the day. Churches were open. Towns held parades honoring the fallen, and the parade routes ended at the local cemetery where Memorial Day speeches were given and prayers were offered up. People took the time that day to clean our cemeteries where our fallen were. And they would plant flowers, and they would put flags at the graves of those who fell in service to our country. From the practice of decorating those graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. So, if you hear someone talk about Decoration Day, it was because that was the day they went to decorate the graves of our fallen. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn't disappear until after World War II. And many of you, probably your grandparents and even your parents, would call it Decoration Day. I know that my mother-in-law still does. But federal law declared Memorial Day the official name only in 1967. Memorial Day was a response, really, to the unprecedented carnage in our Civil War, in which those soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on the communities throughout the north and the south led to spontaneous and mournful commemorations of the dead. This, and every Memorial Day, we need to stop, and we need to pay with sincere conviction our respects to those who have died protecting and preserving our Constitution and our Bill of Rights and the freedoms that we enjoy. We owe those honored dead more than we can ever repay. Members, in this particular, the global war on terror, we have lost over 5,000 soldiers and over 34,000 have been injured. Yesterday on my way back to the Capitol, I stopped in San Antonio at Brooke Army Medical Center to the home for the intrepid. And I had a fewlittle flags. I stop in there often. I'm so proud to have that facility in my hometown. And as I went to one of the nurses' stations that recognizes me, I asked who on the ward didn't have family there so I could go by and give them a flag and say thank you. When visiting this young soldier, he's 23, he's had 13 surgeries, and his mom went back because his sister had had a baby. So, he didn't have any family there at the time. And he told me that for him, tomorrow will be marking the day of the buddies he lost. Because there were four of them in that tank, and he was the only survivor. He will continue to have surgeries, but he said, I don't know who's the lucky ones, me or my buddies. We can never repay that ultimate sacrifice. And for every soldier that has died, you know that there are moms and dads, brothers and sisters, spouses, and even young children. We are very, very honored in Texas that we lead the nation in the number of military that continue today to sign up. In fact, the Department of Defense has noted that Texas is the only state where they're not in any danger of missing any of their recruitment goals. And, in fact, of the soldiers in the last six years that have enlisted, Senator Hinojosa, 62 percent come from south of I-10. So, when Senator Lucio and Senator Uresti, Senator Hinojosa, Senator Zaffirini, the districts that you represent, those are the veterans of tomorrow. But today, we honor those that in the past, from the Civil War, even from the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, our Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, those that lost their lives, and even in Bosnia, and those now who are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Members, we live in a very troubled world and a very complex world, and we don't know what events will trigger our armed forces called into duty. But what we do know is that there are men and women who generation after generation have answered the call. And for that, we are proud and we remember them, and we remember their sacrifices today.
Senator Uresti:iiMr. President and Members, good afternoon. I rise today as well to pay respect to our fallen members of the armed services. And I want to thank Senator VanideiPutte for bringing this resolution. I think it is most appropriate, on this day of all days, to be engaged in the work of democracy, in government. Without the sacrifice of those who have fought for our country, we would not have the liberty to elect our own representatives, to meet freely and make decisions for ourselves and the future of our children. Without liberty and without the sacrifice that makes freedom possible, we would not have a place to work on this day, or any other. The cost has been high. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, almost 625,000 American soldiers, men and women, have died to keep our freedom:ii116,000 in World War I, 407,000 in World War II, almost 37,000 in Korea, and more than 58,000 in Vietnam. Since 1980, almost 5,700 Americans have given their lives in El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As an American, I have a deep, abiding appreciation for the military men and women who have suffered and died for our nation. As a former marine and the father of a marine, I salute all of those who remain in uniform, including their families. And today, I call on all Texans to take a few moments to remember what today is really all about. And as we do the work of the people, let us do so in honor of the men and the women who served, fought, and died in the cause of freedom. It is because of them that we have the
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Senator Hinojosa:iiI, too, rise to support this resolution. You know, there doesn't go past a day that I don't think about some of my friends who fought in Vietnam, some high school friends who went with me from high school to Vietnam, who died in Vietnam. And I must tell you that in my family, all my brothers have served the military, and my youngest brother served in Desert Storm, and his back is shrinking from the chemical poisoning that he got in Iraq. He's a paratrooper. But to me, it's really amazing, because many times while we debate issues, we can disagree. This is very special day that we must remember for those who died for our country, those who fought for our country. And I recall, because I just lost another friend recently, Celestino Ramirez, who also volunteered for the Army and fought in Vietnam. And if I remember back, when I was in Vietnam, I always remember that in my squad, and you heard me say this before, I had Ancio, Italiano from New York; I had two hillbillies out of West Virginia; I had a son of a preacher out of Alabama; I had a couple of rednecks out of West Texas; I had a bronco rider out of Albuquerque, New Mexico; had a Suarez who was a Mexican national out of El Paso, who came over, said you join the military, we'll make you a citizen. I had some blood brothers out of California, Chicago, Chicanos out of California and the Rio Grande Valley. But what's really amazing is how we bonded, how we defended each other as Americans, how we fought so hard to protect our country and our freedom and way of life. And sometime we forget that it is the military that brings us together. It is the military that teaches us how to fight for our country. It's the military that teaches us about equality, that we're all equal, we're all the same, and we're here to fight and protect each other. And we come from all walks of life, but that's what our country's all about, that we're willing to volunteer, willing to stand up and fight and protect our backs against our enemies, against those who wish to destroy our country and destroy our way of life. And for me, I don't forget my friends who died in Vietnam, because I went to high school with them. I don't forget my brothers, especially my youngest brother, who now is disabled. And our soldiers, we must never forget our soldiers who died, our soldiers who fought, and our soldiers who came back. These soldiers are really heroes. But they're also you and I, our neighbors, our friends, our families who volunteer, in the old days, got drafted, but yet, stood up and learned and trained. I'm thinking of all the men and women who are willing to fight and die for our freedom, our country, and our way of life. And a day doesn't go by, this I enjoy, my life, enjoy my family, my friends, and listen to the birds sing, enjoy a sunshine that I do not remember, but I will never forget my friends who died for our country and those before them who died and fought for our freedoms. And I support your resolution.
Senator Lucio:iiSenator VanideiPutte, I, too, rise to thank you for this memorial resolution. We have to think a little bit about what this day means to the hundreds and thousands of families around our own country who travel abroad to visit foreign countries where their loved ones lost their lives. I have a very vivid recollection, excuse me, a very vivid recollection of 1992, when I was in the Philippines. I was traveling and I visited Manila, and I told the taxicab driver to stop, because we were driving by United States cemetery that was established to bury the thousands of men
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Senator Deuell:iiMembers, it's a great honor to participate in this. I think about three guys that I grew up with that were killed in Vietnam before I was finished my second year in college. Scott McDonald, Larry Younger, and Johnny Brumball, and I've had two lifetimes more since then, always ask myself why. And my mother was a thirty-year veterans hospital nurse, and I had a lot of opportunity to speak to some of the veterans that she helped take care of, as I volunteered some time there. And they always talked about the guys that didn't come home, reluctantly, but they always remembered them. My father-in-law landed at Normandy and marched into Berlin without a scratch. And at the fiftieth anniversary, when he retraced his route back
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Senator Ogden:iiSenator VanideiPutte, I appreciate your leadership on this issue. You know, when we were first elected, we didn't even have a Veterans Affairs Committee. And since you've been the Chairman of it, I think you've done some extraordinary things to honor and help and remember our veterans. So, thank you for all that you've done. In the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, which was a story, historical fiction about the Battle of Gettysburg, there is a section in that book where the commanding officer of the main regiment was going to talk to his men who were thinking about deserting. They had fought for over a year, been through many battles, their enlistments were up, the government wasn't paying them, and they were getting ready to go into one of the major battles of all human history. And he had to go talk to them and convince them to not leave. And in that book, in there he says that–talking about the Union Army at the time, that this is a different army, something that human history had never seen–that armies had been created to gain power, to recover loots, to take territory, to conquer women, all through history. But this was the first time in history that an army was created just to make other men free. And you think about what has happened in the military since that fateful day in 1863, and all through our history, we have committed ourselves and our blood to helping make other men free. And so that, not only on this Memorial Day do we honor our fallen veterans for keeping us free, but we should also honor them for the freedom that they have given to hundreds of millions of people in this world. In my district, since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have started, 18 men have died. And I've been to, oh, at least a dozen of their funerals, maybe 14, something that I feel like it's the least I can do. And they're always the same in a lot of respects. And I've never been to one where I didn't come away admiring their families. Because they're universally patriotic. They're universally proud of the sacrifice and of their son and brokenhearted at the same time. And, though, it is never said, there is a, has been an unsung or unstated fear in these funerals. The fear that, I sure hope that my son's sacrifice will not be wasted and that it will not be forgotten. Today, part of our job is to tell them that that sacrifice was not wasted and that it will not be forgotten. There is a book that I would commend to your reading, if you care to think about Memorial Day and its significance, you have that book. It's called Final Salute. It is a powerful and moving book about approximately a dozen soldiers and marines who
Monday, May 25, 2009 SENATE JOURNAL A-5
Senator VanideiPutte:iiThank you, Members, and thank you, Senators, who spoke on this resolution. As I was leaving one of the halls yesterday at Brooke Army Medical Center, an elderly gentleman was trying to catch up with me. And he could have looked like anybody from any one of your districts. He had this Korean War Veteran cap and suspenders and lots of lapel pins, and he was trying to catch up with me. And I heard him, so I turned around, and he asked me, because I still had a flag with a little stand, he says, are you going to use that? Can I have that? And I asked him, well sure, I'll go with you back to your son's room. And he says, oh, no Ma'am, this isn't for my son. And I said, it isn't? He was from Colorado, and he says, I choose to spend, because it's Memorial Day, at the bedside of the soldier who was with my son when he was killed in Iraq. He goes, it's for him. Members, this is why we celebrate our Memorial Day. It is for those families and for the recognition of the freedoms. Probably Alfred, Lord Tennyson said it best when he wrote, theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die. At 3ip.m. today, our nation was asked to come into silence to remember those who have fallen. I would ask, Members, that when we rise in support of this resolution that we remain in silence for a moment to recognize Memorial Day 2009.
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