Honoring the service of wounded warriors

Melissa Ayala

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.”