Audie Murphy's name adorns the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in San Antonio today, but many Texans may not be familiar with his story. The son of sharecroppers from Hunt County, Murphy, like many soldiers of his day, lied about his age (he was only 17) so he could legally enlist in the Army during World War II. In three short years he would become the most decorated soldier of the war, rising from the rank of private to first lieutenant. He gained nationwide fame for an epic battle in eastern France in which he mounted a burning tank destroyer and single-handedly held off a German tank advance for nearly an hour before leading his unit in a counterattack that drove the Nazis back.
Murphy's heroism on behalf of his country made him a household name across America. But upon returning home from the war, Murphy insisted he wasn't special, or any more deserving than his brothers-in-arms. "Bravery is just determination to do a job that you know has to be done," he told the press. "I just fought to stay alive, like anyone else, I guess."
Murphy's attitude was remarkable only in its consistency among the men and women who have sworn to protect our American way of life since the country's founding. Their selfless devotion to defending freedom and the Constitution doesn't come with any expectation of return or reward. They serve because they are Americans.
But we do owe our veterans something that goes beyond gratitude. Whether they fought, like Murphy did, on the battlefields of Europe, or in the islands of the Pacific, or the jungles of Vietnam, or the desert sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, we owe them in ways we can never fully repay. The least we can do is to ensure that our government does everything it can to provide the medical care and support services our veterans require after completing their service.
This is why we have each supported efforts to reform the VA and hold VA officials accountable after recent episodes of gross mismanagement and misconduct resulted in the deaths of American veterans who were waiting for badly needed care. We have pushed to expand access to the Veterans Choice Program with The Care Veterans Deserve Act and demanded action from the VA to address the improper scheduling practices and extended wait times for veterans seeking healthcare across Texas. The State of Texas has also helped to support a grant program to provide for a first-ever public- and private-funded mental health program for veterans in Texas. For far too long, big government bureaucracies have been failing our veterans. We will not rest in our drive to ensure that veterans get the care they deserve.
Across this great nation, millions will gather this weekend with family and friends to honor the contributions of that small minority of warriors who protect our many citizens. And, as Texans, we are immensely proud of the contributions and the leading role that our state continues to play in guarding our national security.
We thank all veterans for their service, and we encourage every Texan to reach out and say "thank you" to the men and women who have served our country. It is because of our veterans that America remains a shining city on a hill, the last best, hope of man on earth. Together, as a state and as a nation, we are honored do our part to recognize their sacrifice.