CLICK HERE TO WATCH
Thank you, Madam Speaker. It has been said that we sleep safe in our beds because bold men and women stand ready in the night to visit justice on those who would try to do us harm.
Madam Speaker, those bold men and women are those people throughout America that wear the uniform of a peace officer, a law enforcement officer that wears the badge on their chest to represent that symbol, to protect the community from those evildoers.
Each year, 50,000 police officers are assaulted in the United States. Let me repeat. Fifty thousand peace officers in the United States are assaulted by somebody.
On May 17, 1792, New York City's Deputy Sheriff Isaac Smith became the first recorded police officer to be killed in the line of duty. Since then, Madam Speaker, 18,340 police officers have been killed while on duty protecting the rest of us.
In 1961, Congress created Peace Officers Memorial Day and designated it to be commemorated each year on May 15, which is tomorrow. I am proud to be the sponsor of this year's resolution that passed this House unanimously in February.
Every year the President issues a proclamation naming May 15 National Peace Officers Memorial Day. A quote by President George H.W. Bush is engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial located in Washington, D.C., that summarized the mission of the 900,000 current sworn law enforcement officers in the United States.
Here's what it says, Madam Speaker: ``It is an officer's continuing quest to preserve both democracy and decency and to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream.'' That is the mission statement of peace officers in this country, those who wear the American uniform.
Tomorrow, Madam Speaker, on the other side of the Capitol, on the west side of the Capitol, 140 families will be assembled together. They will be surrounded by thousands of other people. Most of those people will be peace officers from somewhere in the United States, wearing their uniforms, standing at attention to honor those 140 families who lost a loved one last year in the line of duty because 140 peace officers of the United States law enforcement community were killed last year in the line of duty. Ten percent of those, 14, were from my home State of Texas.
The names of those 14, Madam Speaker, are:
Deputy Constable David Joubert. He worked for the Harris County Constable's Office, Precinct 7 in Houston, Texas.
Police Officer Matthew B. Thebeau, Corpus Christi Police Department.
Corporal Harry Thielepape, Harris County Constable's Office, Precinct 6, in Houston, Texas.
Senior Corporal Victor A. Lozada Sr., Dallas Police Department.
Trooper James Scott Burns of the Texas Department of Public Safety, working for the Highway Patrol in Texas.
Police Officer Everett William Dennis, Carthage Police Department in Texas.
Sergeant Barbara Jean Shumate who worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
A personal friend of mine, Police Officer Gary Gryder who worked for the Houston Police Department.
Another personal friend of mine, Detective Tommy Keen of the Harris County Sheriff's Department. I knew him 25 years ago when I was a prosecutor and he was still arresting outlaws.
Game Warden George Harold Whatley, Jr. who worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Sheriff Brent Lee of the Trinity County Sheriff's Department in Texas.
Police Officer Robert Davis of the San Antonio Police Department. Just recently in December, Police Officer Timothy Abernathy of the Houston Police Department.
And last on the roll call of the 14 dead, Police Officer Mark Simmons of the Amarillo Police Department.
One hundred and forty individuals who wear the badge, who gave their lives last year, their families will be here tomorrow in solemn tribute and honor of those individuals.
Already in 2009, Madam Speaker, there have been 46 law enforcement officers that have died in the line of duty. Once again, over 10 percent of those are from my home State of Texas.
Madam Speaker, at this time of year throughout the United States, peace officers who wear the badge on their chest will have a black cloth draped across that badge. That black cloth is to honor those brothers and sisters in law enforcement that were killed in the line of duty. Many peace officers are here in Washington already. You can see them throughout the city, wearing their uniforms with that black cloth of sacrifice.
Most peace officers wear a badge, or as they call it, a shield. It comes from hundreds of years ago when individuals who acted as police officers protected the communities with actual shields and swords. Now it has been symbolized, and that's what they wear on their chest.
In Texas, many of the peace officers, especially the sheriff's department, all wear stars. It comes from our history of the old west. In fact, the Texas Rangers still wear a star on their chest. They don't wear uniforms. They dress with a Stetson hat, a white shirt, and then they wear a star.
Whether it's a badge or a star or a shield, all of those symbols and emblems are placed over the heart and chest of our peace officers because they were protecting us from those who wish to do us harm.
I've known a lot of police officers over the years. As I mentioned, I was a prosecutor in Houston. I spent 22 years on the bench as a judge trying criminal cases. So I met a lot of them. I tried cases where police officers were harmed and even killed. It's my opinion that those men and women that wear the uniform, the badge, they represent everything that's good and right about America.
When I was a small kid, I had gone to a parade with my dad in a small town called Temple, Texas. I must have been about 5 or 6 years of age, and a parade was going by. Of course as all parades should be, Old Glory was going by first with a mounted horseman, and then the Texas flag.
I noticed on the street that there was an individual who wasn't involved in the parade, but he was just standing there, watching the parade, observing the crowd. My dad noticed that I was observing this individual, and of course it turned out to be a Temple police officer. That was in the days when they didn't wear uniforms. They just wore a star or a badge and a white shirt and cowboy hat.
He told me something that was really true then and is still true today in 2009. He said, If you are ever in trouble, if you ever need help, go to the person who wears the badge because they're a cut above the rest of us.
That's true, Madam Speaker. They are a cut above the rest of us, and they still are there when we need help, when we're in trouble, we need the help of someone who wears the uniform.
Looking at it another way, peace officers are the last strand of wire in the fence between the fox and the chickens, between the good guys and the bad guys. They're it. They are the only protection we have between the law and outlaws. It's great that they serve in that capacity.
We have a lot of different agencies in this country. It's not just our local police officers. It's not just the sheriff's departments, but there are all the Federal agents that we have.
The U.S. Air Marshals that fly and protect us in the air. The drug enforcement agents, the ATF, and we certainly cannot forget the Border Patrol. Our own Capitol Police who serve us even tonight in this building, near this building, watching, ever vigilant to make sure no harm comes to the Capitol or to the people that serve in government in Washington, D.C.
It wasn't long ago, not too many years ago when right down this hall, the center aisle--as we go out the center aisle, there's the majority leader's office--when two Capitol Police officers gave their lives because somebody came in here with a gun, trying to do harm to Members of Congress. Their tribute is still in that hallway. Capitol Police officers are always vigilant and always on guard.
There are others that wear the uniform that really protect us, other than law enforcement. Those emergency medical technicians and of course the firefighters who serve throughout the country and have died in the line of duty, two in Houston, Texas not long ago, several in California.
Madam Speaker, if we go back a few years to September 11, 2001, all of us remember what we were doing that day. I was driving to the courthouse as a judge, listening to the radio, driving my Jeep.
News came on the radio that an airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. It startled me like every other American, I'm sure. Then a few minutes later on the radio it said a second plane had crashed into the other Twin Tower in New York City. It wasn't long after that on the radio, which was now giving constant broadcasts of that event in New York City, that a third plane had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania because of some wonderful Americans on that plane who took matters into their own hands. Then lastly we heard about a fourth plane who flew over this area, Madam Speaker, and crashed into the Pentagon in sight of this very building.
Later that night, I, like probably most Americans, was watching TV, seeing exactly what had happened, and I noticed that when those planes hit the World Trade Center, that thousands of people, good folks from all countries, thousands of people started running as hard as they could to get away from that terror in the sky.
But there was another group of people, not very many, but they were there, that when those planes hit the World Trade Center, they were running as hard as they could to get to that terror. And who were they? They were emergency medical folks. They were firefighters. And they were cops, because that is what they do, Madam Speaker. And while it is important to remember the 3,000 that died that day, it is equally important to remember those that got to live because those emergency people were there to pull them out of the World Trade Center. Marvelous group of folks, those people who wear the badge and protect the rest of us.
And here, Madam Speaker, when that fourth plane came flying near the Capitol and crashed across the Potomac River into the Pentagon where 300-plus were killed, as you know, right next to the Pentagon is Arlington National Cemetery. In Arlington National Cemetery, we have the Tomb of the Unknowns, or as some call it, the Unknown Soldier. It is protected 24 hours a day by an Army unit called the Old Guard. It is important that all Americans go to that tomb and see the changing of the Old Guard every hour or half hour.
But when that fourth plane crashed into the Pentagon, Madam Speaker, those soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown never left their post. In fact, they called for reinforcements. Marvelous group of people that put on the uniform, whether it is the uniform of a peace officer or the uniform of someone in the military.
So tomorrow, May 15, we honor those who have been killed in the line of duty protecting us, those peace officers, the 140 families. Ten days after tomorrow, which will be May 25, we honor those who have served America in the military uniform and given their lives.
On Memorial Day we honor the soldiers that went somewhere in the world and didn't come back. On Veterans Day, we honor those that left and were able to return. So on May 25, Madam Speaker, we will honor those soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who went to war for this country and did not return.
I believe it is important that we remember our history, that we know our history, all of it, regardless of what it is we should know as Americans about the people who lived before us, because they are people. And some of them were quite remarkable individuals. The first war really that the country fought, if you don't count the French and Indian War, was the Revolutionary War. About 5,000 Americans died, a relatively high number considering the percentage of the population that 5,000 represented. And it wasn't easy, Madam Speaker. That war lasted over 7 years. And there were those then, like there have always been in this country, the cynics, the critics and the doomsayers that kind of wanted to quit. But those resilient men and women that fought those 7 years never gave up. And they never quit because, you see, some things are absolutely worth fighting for. That is kind of what this country stands for. And liberty is one of those things worth fighting for.
So after 7 years, the country became a Nation. Put it in perspective. The United States, just a bunch of colonial folks, farmers, merchants and lawyers, took on the mightiest empire that had ever existed in the history of the world, the British Empire, and defeated it.
The British didn't get the point, Madam Speaker, because in 1812 they invaded the United States again to reconquer this country. The War of 1812 is something we don't talk too much about. We don't understand that we could have lost our country to the British invasion. They invaded this city. They burned this Capitol to the ground. They burned every building in Washington, D.C., except the Marine barracks right down the street. And then they headed up to Baltimore and were ready to take over Baltimore. But because of defiant Americans in 1814 that were there, the British finally went home, although 2,500 Americans died in the War of 1812.
Then the United States went to war in the Mexican-American War in 1846, about 14,000 Americans, fighting to defend and protect the border of the United States, because that is what that war was all about, the dignity and sovereignty of the United States, especially the southwestern part of the United States. And then the war that most Americans at least remember, the Civil War, or the War Between the States, when the Nation was divided in half, brother against brother in some cases, family against family. In the War Between the States, between the North and the South, 600,000 Americans died. True, they were from the North and from the South. But let me say something, Madam Speaker. They were all Americans, every one of them. And if you put that percentage of 600,000 in 1860 to 1865 to today, that would be about 5 million Americans in today's numbers, all fighting for what they believed in.
I have had the opportunity to travel and see many of our historic battlefields. Many are close by, in Virginia, where hundreds, thousands, of Americans died. Just one example, the Wilderness Battlefield, down the road about 75 miles, fought in 1864. There were 100,000 Union troops and 60,000 Southern troops on one battlefield. That is the amount of troops, 160,000, that is the number of troops that we have tonight in all of Iraq and Afghanistan put together. And if you take all those numbers and put them on one battlefield, that is how many people were on one battlefield in 3 days in May in 1864. In that battle, 30,000 casualties. It is called the ``Wilderness'' because of the massive amount of trees that are there.
And I had the honor to go with my friend from Vermont, PETER WELCH, from the other side of the aisle, from the North, to go together to the Wilderness Battlefield last week to pay tribute to those that died. We went for several reasons. One is because Vermont, from the North, sustained the highest casualties ever in the State of Vermont in any war. And in that battle also 60 percent of the Texans that were in that battle were casualties. So we went to pay honor to them because, like I said before, they were all Americans. And it is unfortunate now we are having to fight another battle with a corporation called Wal-Mart that wants to build one of their beautiful stores right there on the battlefield. Wal-Mart sees profit more important than patriotism.
But be that as it may, that was the type of situation this country faced in the 1860s. Americans all gave their lives, 600,000 of them.
Then it wasn't over. We went to the Spanish-American War right before the turn of the last century, 2,500. That was, as you recall, Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. And then we went to the war that was supposed to end all wars, that is World War I, the war where millions actually died throughout the world. The United States went into World War I late. But because we were there, in my opinion, it made a difference, and the war was successful. It successfully ended. 4.4 million Americans, they were called ``doughboys'' because their uniforms looked like dough, 4.4 million of them went over there. They went to places they had never heard of and they fought for people they did not know. But they went because America wanted them to go. Of those that went, 114,000 of them did not come back, Madam Speaker.
Of course, World War I did not end all wars. World War II was soon behind where 405,000 Americans were killed. In World War II my dad proudly served as an 18-year-old and went over to France. He had never been more than 50 miles from home, and there he found himself, as many other American GIs in World War II, a long way from home fighting in Europe and in the South Pacific. But it wasn't over. World War II ended in 1946.
Four years later we are at war again in Korea. It is called the Korean ``conflict.'' I don't know why it is called that. It was war. People died. Americans, 36,000 died in Korea trying to protect another nation called South Korea.
And then when it was over, it was Vietnam, the longest war in American history, over 10 years, where 58,000 Americans died. And then the recent Middle East American wars, the Persian Gulf war and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan that are taking place now where over 4,000 Americans have died. I had the honor to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan, to see our troops, to see the NATO troops as well in Afghanistan. I have also talked to the families of people who have lost sons or daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just in my congressional district of Texas, 26 men and women from all races have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we, like many other offices, honor them and give a tribute to them by having their photographs at the entrance to our offices.
I mention the folks in Iraq and Afghanistan, Madam Speaker, because it is my opinion that they are the finest military that has ever existed in the history of the world that are representing us. And they are all volunteers, Madam Speaker. They all volunteered to join. And they are still joining. And they are joining knowing that they are probably going to go to Afghanistan. But that is what our military does.
Madam Speaker, on the Mall, right across the street here, down at the end of the Mall, where there is the memorial to Abraham Lincoln, the United States decided to build monuments to the great wars of the last century. So the first monument that was built was the cold, black granite monument to the 58,000 that died in Vietnam. And it has their names on that. And every day, Americans go, veterans go and pay tribute to those men and women that died. They put all types of mementos in front of that glorious monument, whether it is flags or flowers. Other Vietnam veterans have put their medals there. It is very sober and very somber. And it is a wonderful tribute to those that served and were treated badly when they came back home. They went because they were told to go, and they did.
That was the first monument that we built. Then we decided to build a monument to the Korean War, which is across the Mall from the Vietnam Memorial. The Korean War monument is a little different. It shows Americans going through a land mine in the snow going off to battle. Good tribute, marvelous tribute to those that served in the Korean War, the 38,000 that did not come home. And between those two monuments, closer to the Capitol, there is a World War II memorial. There are some bureaucrats in Washington that were opposed to building that. They thought it would be unsightly. I'm glad they didn't get their way. And Congress made sure that it got erected, citizens made sure it got erected and veterans made sure it got erected. Anyway, that memorial is a different type of tribute. It has all the pillars of all the States and all the territories, and it names all the battles that the United States fought in World War II. And if you stand in front of it, Madam Speaker, you will see in the back what appears to be a bronze plate, a massive bronze plate. But if you get closer to this massive bronze plate, you will realize it is not a bronze plate at all, but it is a wall of 4,000 stars. Each star, each bronze star represents 100 Americans killed in World War II, 400,000 young men and women that did not come back home in the great World War II.
But, Madam Speaker, although we have three monuments to our military to show tribute and honor to them of the last century's wars, we don't have a monument to honor all of those that served in the great World War I.I have here, Madam Speaker, a photograph. This is a friend of mine. His name is Frank Buckles, Jr. Frank Buckles, Jr., as you see him, Madam Speaker, he looks pretty good. He looks great. He's 108 years old.
In World War I, Frank Buckles wanted to get into the Army, but he was too young. So he went from recruiting station to recruiting station, and he lied about his age. Finally somebody took him, and he got into the United States Army. He says he was 16. He was probably 15 if you do the math right.
Anyway, he served in World War I in Europe. He drove an ambulance in France. He rescued other doughboys that had been wounded on the battlefield and those who had been killed. After the Great War was over with, he back to the United States, and soon he found himself in the Philippines during World War II. He was captured by the Japanese and was held as a prisoner of war for 3 years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. After the war was over, he was liberated, came back to the United States, and now lives in West Virginia. Frank Buckles Jr., 108. He's the last doughboy, Madam Speaker. Of the 4.4 million that went over there, he's the only one that is left over here. One hundred and fourteen thousand of them died.
When our troops landed in France in World War I, it was a trench war stalemate. Neither side was making any progress until the Americans showed up. And our allies were shocked at the tenacious attitude of Americans going into battle, and our enemies were stunned because of the fact that America was making a difference. And these people, Frank Buckles' generation, the fathers of the Greatest Generation, made a difference and ended that war successfully and came home.
Now, on the great mall we have a tribute to Vietnam, to Korea, to World War II, but we don't have a monument to all of those that served in World War I. There is a small monument to those that served in World War I from Washington, D.C. it's in a decrepit state. It's falling apart. Grass is growing up through it. It's a disgrace. Until recently next to it was the park rangers stable where they kept their horses.
So we need a monument for these folks. We don't honor them. Frank Buckles, he's it. They don't have any high-dollar lobbyists. They don't have any more members of the World War I generation here. There's nobody left. The only people left are Americans, who want, I would hope, to show tribute to Frank Buckles and his generation.
Once again, the bureaucrats are balking. They don't think we need another memorial on the Mall. That's unfortunate that they feel that way. It's interesting enough that the word has gotten out and school kids throughout the United States have gotten involved in this memorial for Frank Buckles and his generation. The first school was a school called Creekwood Middle School in Kingwood, Texas, where kids got together, studied World War I and all the survivors that are left throughout the world like Frank Buckles and the other seven throughout the world, and they've started a campaign to build that memorial. I hope they succeed where the bureaucrats have failed.
We have an obligation, Madam Speaker, to honor those who have served in our military and honor those who have served and have died for the rest of us.
Earlier I mentioned Arlington Cemetery. Arlington Cemetery across the Potomac River, you can see it from a lot of places in Washington before you get to Virginia. It's next to the Pentagon. Throughout Arlington Cemetery there are 300,000 markers to those that have died in America's wars. It says, Madam Speaker, on the Arlington Cemetery Memorial where the 300,000 are buried: ``On flame's eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread, and glory guards with solemn round--the bivouac of the dead.''
Three hundred thousand Americans of all races, all ages, from all wars since the war between the States are buried at that location.
The United States, Madam Speaker, goes to war, has gone to war, the wars that I mentioned, for a purpose every time. That is to preserve the American way of life and to promote liberty. And when we go overseas, unlike nations before in history that were powerful, when we go overseas, we never go to concur. We go to liberate, to spread the word of freedom, hope, democracy. That's what Americans do. Then they come back after those wars are over, except for those that are killed and are buried throughout the world in graves known only to the Good Lord.
On a hill, a place called Normandy, there's a cemetery. Normandy, Madam Speaker, as you know, is a place in France. Here is a photograph of a portion of the Normandy Cemetery. It's hard to comprehend how massive a cemetery this is without being there. You notice in this cemetery there are crosses for those of the Christian faith, the Star of David for the Jewish faith. But in the cemetery in Normandy, Madam Speaker, there are 9,387 Americans, 9,387 Americans. Mostly young men. Almost all of them killed in their first battle. And Normandy occurred because the United States and the other allies wanted to liberate France from oppression, from a dictator, from the Nazi philosophy. And they are still buried over there, those 9,000. On D-day in June of 1944, almost 3,000 Americans lost their lives and, during the entire conflict, 9,000 of whom are buried here in Normandy.
You know, Americans don't go to war to concur; they go to liberate. And that confuses other countries. That confuses our enemies sometimes. And sometimes it even confuses our allies.
It's been said, Madam Speaker, unfortunately, that Americans are somewhat arrogant. Europeans, we have apologized for Americans being arrogant. I don't understand that statement, unless you call these people right here arrogant that died at Normandy, unless you call people like Frank Buckles, the other doughboys that died in France and in Europe. The United States liberated that nation, that continent, twice in the last century. And we didn't do it for any personal gain. We did it because people were being oppressed by a totalitarian state.
I don't think Americans are arrogant; I think they're proud. They're proud of our way of life. And they should be. This is actually the greatest country that has ever existed in the history of the world, thanks to the Good Lord and His blessings on our country. And we should appreciate that, and I don't think there is anything wrong with being proud of that fact.
So, Madam Speaker, tomorrow we honor peace officers that had been killed have been killed in America defending us, May 15. On May 25 we honor Americans like these still buried in Normandy who went to war to protect us from foreign enemies. And we should constantly remember all of those who had the courage to put on the uniform of an American and go and defend the rest of us.
Madam Speaker, it's been said by one of my heroes, Patrick Henry, that the battle is not for the strong alone but it's to the vigilant, the active, and to the brave. I think that's true of our Americans even tonight that wear the uniform of a peace officer or someone in the military. We are fortunate, as American citizens, that there are those who will make that sacrifice and sign up to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
So, hopefully, Americans, especially the young, will appreciate their heritage, appreciate people who have lived before them that gave them the ability to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And maybe in the next 10 days when you see a peace officer, a firefighter, emergency medical technician, some soldier coming back from Iraq at the airport that we go up and shake their hand and tell them we appreciate what they do for the rest of us.
And that's just the way it is.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH