Texas Times: Honoring Generations of Texas Heroes

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Jun. 1, 2010, 10:55am

On Memorial Day, we honor the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our land of liberty.

We pay tribute to a long list of American heroes—from those who fought and died to win our independence, to those who stormed the beaches at Normandy and the South Pacific to liberate millions from tyranny.

We honor those who defended our great nation in Korea and Vietnam, as well as our current generation of heroes who have died in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world.

As the son of a World War II B-17 pilot, Memorial Day is one of reflection and gratitude for me. My father spent 31 years in the military, and from him I learned the value of patriotic service.

While my father, now deceased, was fortunate to return from the grips of war to live with his family in peace, so many of his fellow warriors did not.

On Memorial Day, we honor not only the fallen, but the families of the fallen as well. These men, women and children demonstrated great strength and courage through difficult times and persevered through the loss of their loved ones.

Texas is home to more than 1.7 million veterans, as well as approximately one out of every 10 current military service members.

Texas also houses 15 major military installations, including Fort Hood, the largest active duty military installation in the country.

In Texas, our pride in our men and women in uniform runs deep. We value their contribution and we know the sacrifices they make are critical to preserving our greater good.

It's no wonder we say "Texas defends America."

This Memorial Day, I joined the future generation of military leaders in honoring the sacrifices of those who served before them.

Every year, I have the honor of hosting a send-off ceremony for Texas students attending our nation's military academies. These young men and women are following in a proud tradition that dates from the founding of our Republic.

I am always humbled to meet these fine young Americans who will carry the torch of the countless heroes we honor on Memorial Day.

In ceremonies and events across the state, Texans gathered this Memorial Day to pay tribute to our fallen heroes.

From North Texas, a group of 33 World War II veterans traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit the national war memorials, including the World War II Memorial, where they paid their respects to friends and fellow servicemembers they lost during the war.

Their trip and all related expenses were covered by Southwest Airlines and Honor Flight, a non-profit run mainly by volunteers and established to honor the sacrifices of America's veterans. The organization seeks to send as many veterans as possible, with priority given to World War II veterans, to our nation's capital to visit the war memorials.

One worthwhile visit for veterans and any Texans interested in learning more about our military heroes and history is the National Museum of the Pacific War operated by the Nimitz Foundation in Fredericksburg, Texas. Recently reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, the museum details the stories of Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima through interactive maps and oral history presentations.

Wall Street Journal writer Mark Yost said of the museum, "Having been to all the major war museums in Europe and the U.S., I left here thinking this is perhaps the most comprehensive, well-organized and informative military museum I've ever seen."

The museum profiles a number of the most revered military leaders of the Pacific War, including Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, a Fredericksburg native.

With command over the entire Pacific theater, with the exception of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's sector, Nimitz led the offensive that resulted in Japan's unconditional surrender. He signed the U.S. peace treaty on the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945.

Since the birth of this great nation, our men and women in uniform chose to pursue the most honorable and selfless job in America. As members of the U.S. Armed Forces, they represent hope for the downtrodden, freedom for the oppressed, and safety and security for the homeland.

On Memorial Day, we salute their service and sacrifice, remember the loved ones they have left behind, and pray for the safe return of those who are now overseas defending our freedom.

Memorial Day is a day of sorrow, but also a day of hope. Those we remember on this day gave their lives because they believed in the future of this country. And, because of their sacrifice and the service of today's men and women in uniform, our future remains as bright as ever.

Sources: Wall Street Journal: The Full Story Behind the War in the Pacific, Texas State Historical Association, Dallas Morning News

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture, 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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