Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

When called upon by their country to go into service, Texans have always been up to the challenge. And, in fact, today, serving somewhere in the world, one out of 10 people wearing the American uniform is from the state of Texas.

Texans are always on the front lines in the defense of freedom. It goes all the way back to 1836 when the first Texas veteran found himself at a beat-up old Spanish church in Central Texas that we now call the Alamo. The Alamo was more than 100 years old at the time that he and 186 other brave Texans defended freedom. The defenders of the Alamo were determined to seek liberty for the Republic of Texas. These veterans just like all of those who have followed risked their lives in the name of freedom.

To be a member of the United States military is a gift, a sacrifice and it is an honor. Every day our warriors risk their lives, and today I would like to commend a special infantry battalion close to the heart of many Texans.

The 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, or 1/23, also known as “The Lone Star Battalion,” is a home-grown group of soldiers headquartered in Houston, containing approximately 800 Marines and Navy/Corpsmen. The Lone Star Battalion has played a most significant and important part of history. I am proud to recognize and honor the service of the men and women of the 1/23 Marines.

The history of this unit is one of many great successes. Activated in 1942 in North Carolina, they were sent to the Pacific to aid in the United States’ “island-hopping” campaign against Japan during World War II. They participated in many battles during this time including Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

Post-World War II, the battalion was activated once again, this time out of Houston on July 1, 1962. After the 9/11 attacks, it was mobilized for the first time since World War II in support of Operation Desert Storm.

Because of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, the battalion continued to support the global war on terrorism by participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is currently deployed in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Ronald Reagan said this about the United States Marines: “Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines, they don’t have that problem.”

Recently, the Lone Star Battalion worked with coalition and the Afghan National Army troops to build a school in the small village of Abad, Afghanistan. Not only is this the first school the village has ever seen, the civilian enrollment is projected to be around 50 students come the start of the school year.

This is a critical development considering the literacy rate of the total population in Afghanistan is 28.1 percent.

Acknowledging that it was imperative for the ANA to establish trust and accountability for the civilians they defend, the Marines were eager to let the ANA take the lead role in the construction process of the school. It seems as though not only are these exceptional Marines training the ANA and performing their respective duties, but they are also aiding in forging a bond between a young, willing military and a civilian people in need of a sense of security.

The sons of liberty and daughters of democracy throughout America, and especially Texas, continue to join the military. They understand that our nation is at war, yet they choose to charge headlong into battle. There are not many of us who would be willing to volunteer to leap into the lion’s den of Afghanistan where the cowardly enemy hides in caves.

There have been two warriors killed from the Lone Star Battalion this year in Afghanistan: Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith and Navy Corpsman Benjamin Rast. We shall always remember Smith and Rast and the lives they gave for our freedom.

It has been said that wars may be fought by weapons, but they are won by warriors. It is America’s warriors who pay the price for our freedom.

With the recent demise of the most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, the Lone Star Battalion has rejoiced knowing that the Al Qaeda leader is dead but remains humble knowing the fight for freedom is not yet won. I am truly honored to represent many of these fine Marines in Congress and proud to know that there are so many Texans abroad aiding in the security, development and protection of the Afghan and American interests.

I sincerely thank each person who has served our country yesterday, today and tomorrow. Without your service we would not be the greatest country the world has ever known.

And that’s just the way it is.