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2009-11-12 digital edition

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2009-11-12 / Community Calendar

Honoring A Texas Hero

By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

The Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military decoration. It is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity” at the risk of their own lives “above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.” Needless to say, only an act of extraordinary courage warrants the bestowment of this award.

In our state’s history, 70 Texans have been awarded the Medal of Honor. There are an additional 12 recipients who were born in Texas but later moved or enlisted in another state, to which their award is accredited. These brave men have been recognized for their acts of uncommon valor in wars and conflicts ranging from the Indian Campaigns of the late 1800s, to the Spanish-American War, the World Wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

One particular Texas hero who received this distinction was George H. O’Brien of Big Spring, who served as a Marine Corps officer in the Korean War. During combat, when his platoon fell under intense enemy attack, Second Lieutenant O’Brien led his men through a “virtual hail of deadly small-arms, artillery and weapon fire” up the side of an enemy-held hill. Despite being shot through the arm, he pressed forward in hand-to-hand combat against the enemy, refusing to be evacuated for medical treatment and leading his men in the assault for nearly four hours. O’Brien was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his conspicuous gallantry on that day.

In honor of his selfless service to our nation, I have introduced a bill to designate the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in his home town of Big Spring, Texas, as the “George H. O’Brien, Jr., Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.” It is my hope that this will, in some small way, serve as a testimony to his wartime service and his support later in life for his fellow veterans who utilize this facility.

Mr. O’Brien’s story of bravery is humbling, and it will remain embedded in the hearts and minds of Texans forever. We owe a debt of gratitude to all veterans, including the more than 1.7 million men and women from Texas, whose sacrifices have ensured that we may continue to live out the vision of our Founding Fathers. I encourage all Texans to join with me in honoring these brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines-not only on Veterans Day, but every day.

To that end, an act of Congress established the Veterans History Project (VHP) in 2000 to ensure that the service and sacrifice of our veterans are recorded for future generations to appreciate as well. This project is administered by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The VHP collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans, as well as stories of U.S. citizen civilians who actively supported war efforts. This collection of first-hand accounts will ensure that future generations of Americans are able to hear directly from our nation’s veterans, providing an understanding of the great costs at which our continued freedom comes. Information regarding this worthwhile endeavor can be found at: http://www.loc.gov/vets.

Although we can never fully repay them for their service, we must seek every opportunity to show our appreciation for the men and women who have served and sacrificed so much in the defense of our great nation. Another way Congress can continue paying tribute is by passing this new legislation to honor and remember George O’Brien. May God bless our service members serving today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world, and may God bless the many before them who have served our country with bravery and honor.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture, and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

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