Texas Times: Texas' first generation of veterans

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Nov. 15, 2011, 4:59am

The San Jacinto Monument is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument.

Recently millions of Texans gathered to pay tribute to generations of our bravest Americans � our veterans. These include the youngest generation of veterans, many of whom are only recently returning from service in Afghanistan or Iraq, as well as the millions of veterans who served before them at every major turning point in our state's history.

For Texans, some of our earliest veterans made up the forces that secured our independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1836, just weeks after the fall of the Alamo and the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos, a group of Texas volunteers gathered under the leadership of General Sam Houston.

Few of them had military training and most carried their own personal weapons. Yet together, they defeated the much larger army of the Mexican dictator Santa Anna. Their victory brought the freedom and independence that Texans enjoy to this day.

Today, in true Texas fashion, a bigger-than-life monument stands at the site of this historic battle. The San Jacinto Monument is the tallest monument column in the world � surpassing even the Washington monument by 15 feet�and topped by a massive 220-ton Lone Star of Texas.

From its observation deck�reached by a 489-foot elevator ride�visitors can see the Houston skyline, the Houston Ship Channel and the Battleship Texas. At the base of the monument is the extremely well appointed San Jacinto Museum of History � a must-see for history buffs and any Texans wanting to learn more about our rich culture and predecessors.

This month the San Jacinto Monument will unveil for the first time to the general public a historic wax bust of one of Texas' most iconic veterans and leaders � Sam Houston. The 33-inch-tall wax bust was sculpted by the same hands that fashioned the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota � sculptor Gutzon Borglum.

Although it has been in the museum's collection since 1939, the sculpture has not been put on public display due to its fragile condition. Now, after a four-month conservation effort by museum staff, the newly stabilized bust is on display beginning Nov. 12 as part of the museum's year-long Making a Mark, Leaving a Legacy exhibit.

In addition to the sculpture, the exhibit will include more than 300 artifacts ranging from 19th century formulations used by Texas pharmacists to diagnose diseases to Pressler's Map of the State of Texas, considered one of the state's premier large-scale maps produced in the 19th century.

Those interested in seeing the new exhibit can visit www.sanjacinto-museum.org/Visit_Us/Visit_Us_Overview/ for hours and directions.

As we honor the generations of men and women who have fought to defend Texas, our nation and the liberties we cherish today, I am proud of our rich history of independence and success. And I'm reminded of the powerful words of our state song, "God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong, That you may grow in power and worth, Thro'out the ages long."

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services, and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

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