Governor Abbott Addresses Texas Veterans of Foreign Affairs (VFW) Convention
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today addressed the Texans Veterans of Foreign Affairs (VFW) Mid-Winter Convention where he outlined his plan to improve infrastructure, job training, educational opportunities and healthcare access for Texas veterans and military families. In honor of fallen Navy SEAL and American hero Chris Kyle, Governor Abbott also announced his intent to officially declare February 2nd Chris Kyle Day in the state of Texas.
“America is the brightest beacon of freedom the world has ever known for one simple reason – because of you – our veterans, the men and women who put service above self,” Governor Abbott said. “As Governor, I will constantly work to find ways to help our veterans. It’s our duty to help those who helped make America so exceptional. And it’s our duty to honor those whose sacrifice has preserved our freedom.”
Governor Abbott’s VFW Speech:
*Gov. Abbott often deviates from prepared remarks.
It’s an honor to be here with all of you who’ve served our country. America is the brightest beacon of freedom the world has ever known for one simple reason – because of you – our veterans, the men and women who put service above self.
My extended family looks a lot like this crowd today – they’ve served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. My brother Gary served 20 years in the United States Navy and served in the Persian Gulf at the same time as you, Roy. I’ve seen firsthand the sacrifice you and your families have made.
In times of war and in times of peace, heroes among us have stepped forward. You are those heroes. You stood in the face of dangers known and unknown and protected us from threats from around the world. You sacrificed so much, asked for so little in return, other than the freedom you fought do defend. On behalf of all Texans, I want to thank you for your commitment to our country.
Texans have played a powerful role in defending this nation. More than a million have served. Many more have trained and lived on military installations in the Lone Star State. And today, Texas is the proud home to almost two million veterans, active-duty military, Reserve & National Guard and their families.
I am grateful to the Texas VFW for all you do to help those who have served. The support, fellowship and financial assistance you provide for our Texas veterans, for those on active duty and for those who return home broken from battle is critical to ensure our veterans are respected, that their sacrifices are recognized and their return to civilian life is eased.
But there is more we must do. First we must improve your access to healthcare. No veteran who has fought for this country should be denied access to healthcare because of bureaucratic bungling at the Veteran’s Administration. Having served on the frontlines, you should go to the front of the line to get the healthcare you need.
The VA in Washington is falling short of its obligations. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the RGV. Even the President recognizes this. On a trip to the RGV in 2008, Barack Obama said, “We need a VA hospital right here in the Valley.” Veterans shouldn’t have to drive 200 miles for treatment. It’s now 2015 and I’m calling on the President to keep his word. It’s time to build that VA hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. This week – as Governor – I sent a request to the President asking that he fulfill his promise to build that hospital to care for our veterans in the RGV.
The timing couldn’t be better. We’re opening a new medical school and a state-of-the-art hospital at UTRGV. The co-location of a VA hospital at UTRGV would be a force multiplier ensuring that the growing number of veterans in South Texas have access to first rate healthcare.
That first rate care includes mental healthcare. If a veteran or service member asks for help with PTSD, we can’t allow the backlog at the VA to prevent timely care. I am calling on the Texas Legislature to provide mental health screenings to veterans and service members at no cost.
We must also do more to help veterans in the job market. Texas leads the nation in job creation and yet the unemployment rate for our veterans remains high. That is unacceptable.
By lowering financial barriers, we can help Texas veterans create new jobs for yourselves and for others. That’s why I am asking the Texas Legislature to exempt new businesses – formed by veterans – from having to pay registration fees to the state to open their businesses. I’m also recommending that newly formed, veteran-owned businesses be exempt from paying state franchise taxes for the first five years. And I’m asking state licensing agencies to waive licensing exams and fees for veterans with the required education, training and practical experience gained in the military. If the training you received as an electrician, a technician or a lineman meets the standard of the United States Military, it should be good enough for the state of Texas.
As Governor, I will constantly work to find ways like these to help our veterans. It’s our duty to help those who helped make America so exceptional. And it’s our duty to honor those whose sacrifice has preserved our freedom.
Along those lines, I wanted you to be the first to know…In honor of a Texas son, a Navy SEAL and an American hero – a man who defended his brothers and sisters in arms on and off the battlefield – I am declaring February 2nd Chris Kyle Day in Texas. We will commemorate his passing. But more importantly, remembering his answering of the call of duty.
We thank Chris Kyle and all of you for your service and sacrifice. And we rededicate ourselves o a cause greater than ourselves. To freedom for our children, their children and for generations yet to be born. May God bless you and all who wear the uniform of the United States of America.