HOUSTON (AP) — Almost all American combat veterans "come home bearing scars" and the government has a role to play in helping them heal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday night.
Perry spoke during the second annual gala for the Lone Survivor Foundation, which provides therapeutic and other support to wounded American combat veterans and their families.
Perry, the frontrunner in most polls sizing up the field vying for the Republican presidential nomination, believes in making government as inconsequential as possible in peoples' lives. But he said of returning veterans: "We must take care of them, every last one of them" and use whatever resources are necessary.
The governor said the state should help connect military veterans with employers and assist them in cutting through red tape with the Veterans Affairs Administration and other support networks. He added that there's no state better than Texas for helping returning veterans rejoin the U.S. workforce. He said 40,000 have gone back to work in Texas this year alone.
"Always bragging about Texas," he quipped, straying briefly off-script.
The Lone Survivor Foundation was created by Marcus Luttrell, who was honored for surviving one of the worst single-day losses of life in Navy SEAL history. A native of Huntsville, Luttrell was awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism as the lone SEAL team member to survive that June 2005 firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan. He detailed the experience in his best-selling 2007 book, "Lone Survivor."
Addressing a sympathetic crowd that gave him a standing ovation even before he began speaking, Perry called being in the military the highest possible public service and said, "the United States has no match on the battlefield."
He thanked a SEAL team for killing Osama Bin Laden and recalled a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last month that killed 22 members of another SEAL team as they rushed aid to troops in a firefight.
"Americans always face these challenges. We face them head on and they don't stop us because that's part of our national character," Perry said.
Luttrell said the governor agreed to address the gala long before he entered the presidential race — but still kept his promise to show up.
"He's like a father to me," Luttrell said. Perry said the pair didn't always agree, but joked "I am always right."