The SE Texas Record Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm

Ninety-six years ago, young men from the states of Texas and Oklahoma who had no combat experience, were deployed to France and soon thrust into one of the bloodiest battles of World War One – known as the Hundreds Days Offensive.

On the morning of October 8, 1918, the troops were woken minutes before the engagement and rushed to the trenches along the French-German border. Toxic gasses filled the air; planes swooped below; and machine guns buzzed well into the night. In the first two days, the Division lost roughly 1,600 men. But they kept fighting, held the line, and captured over 600 enemy soldiers. The Texas troops forced the Germans to concede a primary stronghold, which proved to be a critical step in winning the war.

A month later, on November 11, 1918, Germany signed an armistice ending the Great War, and ever since we have commemorated our veterans on this day.

Each person who serves in the Armed Forces deserves our utmost gratitude – they pledge their lives so that we might remain free. Today we honor them.

Texans have always been proud of our troops who, like those who charged the dark forest of Blanc Mont Ridge, defend liberty in the most harrowing circumstances.

Just shy of a century since that most fateful night, the men and women of Texas continue to serve with great courage and commitment.

Ninety Texans have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest recognition of personal bravery. Thousands have volunteered to defend our nation since 9-11, and hundreds have given their lives in the war against terrorism. In the past year, over 17,500 Texans have joined the Armed Forces. With over 200,000 active duty personnel, reservists, National Guardsmen, and civilians at 15 military institutions across the state, Texans play a critical role in keeping Americans safe and free.

Today, service members from Dyess Air Force base are conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets. ISIS is the face of evil. It is persecuting Christians. It is beheading children. It is pillaging towns. And Dyess Air Force base is playing a critical role in exterminating this evil.

Today, troops from Fort Bliss and Fort Hood are deploying to Africa and fighting the spread of what Texans have unfortunately already witnessed to be the deadly disease of Ebola. These soldiers are going into the thick of the epidemic and risking their own wellbeing to end this outbreak. We are grateful for their swift response.

Today, the Texas National Guard has stepped up to secure the border and protect citizens from dangerous illegal criminals that only perpetuate the humanitarian crisis on the border. They are on the front lines of saving lives on American soil. In one case, just over a month ago, three National Guard soldiers rescued a Texan who was injured along the river. He was bleeding profusely, but with their swift response, he survived and has recovered.

Today, bases from Shepperd to Goodfellow to Camp Bullis train our next generation of pilots, medics, and ground troops. Bases scattered throughout the state ensure that the future of our military is strong, and that the young men and women who pledge their lives to defend this nation are well-trained and equipped. These training programs provide them a future of service and opportunity, and in turn, these young soldiers safeguard our national security interests.

Today we recognize a life-long Texan, Richard Overton, who at 108 is the oldest living American World War Two veteran – we thank him for his continued patriotism.

These are only a handful of examples highlighting the robust military presence in the Lone Star State. There are countless told and untold stories of the heroes in the state. Let us never forget to tell them.

This spirit of courage lives on in Texas, and it is with grateful hearts that today we say thank you to all the men and women who have served our country. So today, take a minute to call a service member you know or shake the hand of a veteran. Thank them for their sacrifice. It’s an honor to know them. And let us never forget the price they pay so that we may enjoy the many blessings of liberty.

Ted Cruz is a U.S. Senator representing Texas

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