United States Military

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott shocked the civilized world by openly pandering to right-wing conspiracy theorists. In an unprecedented move, he ordered the Texas National Guard to “monitor” proceedings of the United States military as they conducted a training exercise known as “Jade Helm 15” across the country, including in this state, specifically near Bastrop. These training exercises are meant to replicate the unique environment that members of our armed services may encounter overseas.

The aforementioned crazies believed this was a part of some type of power-grab by the federal government meant to enslave the people of Texas into tyranny and socialistic serfdom. (Yes, really.)  The speculation was further fueled by the apparent temporary closings of a few rural Walmarts. Conspiracy theorists opined these stores were connected with an elaborate system of underground tunnels, would serve as distribution centers during martial law and would even be a headquarters for “invading troops from China.” (Once again, really.)

Now, any reasonable sane public official would not breathe life into these maliciously slanderous rumors, much less condone them. But that is exactly what Abbott did by dispatching the state’s National Guard to somehow keep an eye on the American armed forces. All of a sudden, the wingnuts felt emboldened and vindicated by their governor, doubling down on their firm believe that the feds were coming to take their guns and impose Lenin-Marxism.

Basically trying to hold back laughter, representatives from the Pentagon clarified that there would be no armed takeover of the state of Texas and that Jade Helm 15 was, indeed, a training exercise. But you can’t convince the unconvincables, including radio talk show host Alex Jones, Congressman Louie Gohmert, Sen. Ted Cruz and Abbott. Quite a motley crew has assembled to ostensibly “protect” the people of Texas from their country’s military; at least, that is what they have deluded themselves into thinking.

Thankfully, many former leaders in the state have been quick to be voices of reason. These include both former Gov. Rick Perry and former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, respectively, who both sharply castigated Abbott for pandering to idiots and disrespecting the military by insinuating that they would somehow institute martial law against their own people.

It is positively unacceptable that our state’s governor would risk the integrity and safety of this state’s residents in a pathetic attempt to increase his bona fides with nutjobs. Texas, yet again, has become the laughingstock of the entire country, as folks from Washington to Florida have groaned and rolled their eyes at just how gullible we must be. 

What is perhaps saddest of all is that these assumptions of Texas will stick around far longer than the fleeting training exercises that birthed them. Most Texans haven’t heard of Jade Helm 15, much less spent enough time watching InfoWars to actually be convinced that they are some type of nefarious plot to enact a new world order. For whatever reason, however, our governor has shamelessly pandered to that minuscule minority nonetheless. 

For shame, Gov. Abbott!

Six soldiers who served in Iraq and are now recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center received a warm welcome on the Capitol grounds in commemoration of Wounded Warrior Day on Monday.

Gov. Rick Perry met the soldiers and thanked them for their service earlier that day. According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Texas has the second largest veteran population in the nation with nearly 1.7 million veterans as of September 2010. Secretary of the Senate Patsy Spaw said since 2001, when Operation Enduring Freedom began, 19 percent of the 19,413 Texas service members deployed have been wounded.

“We recognize and pay tribute to members of the United States Military who have honorably served our great nation and state and join all Texans in observing Jan. 24, 2011 as Wounded Warrior Day at the Texas State Capitol,” Spaw said. “We are blessed to honor today the wounded warriors who ensure our safety and security, and it is indeed fitting that all Texans honor and reaffirm their gratitude to these American heroes.”

House and Senate members unanimously adopted the bill Monday to honor injured soldiers.

“These service members are now called to overcome new obstacles and learn how to live independently despite the many physical challenges they face,” said State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who filed the bill. “They have already overcome the greatest challenge of all; fighting for our country.”

Each of the guest soldiers were recognized by a member of the Senate as well as State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, who is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.

Wichita Falls veteran Joel Jimenez was among the guests recognized Monday for his service in 1968. He now serves as the commander of the 41st chapter of Texas Disabled American Veterans.

“My husband is a Vietnam veteran and he is being honored today,” his wife Joan Jimenez said. “He served two years in Vietnam.”

State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, recognized three veterans of his district, including Jimenez.

“He was wounded in June 1969 and returned to his unit to complete his tour of duty as a purple heart recipient,” Estes said. “Over the course of his service, he’s received the National Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, two Bronze Stars and the Combat Infantryman Badge.”

State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, remembered his father who was wounded twice while serving in the military.

“[Veterans] are the ultimate role model in our country,” Lucio said. “I want to recognize those who could not join us. There are [more than] three million wounded veterans in America today, and that’s significant for us to recognize today.”