Mr. Speaker, in the vastness of west Texas, the sky is a brilliant brazen blue and a place where sparse live oak trees fight to even exist. In the stillness of these arid plains is the remote south Texas town of Rocksprings.
The people of this community of only 1,250 had a homecoming Saturday for their favorite son, Deputy Gilmer Hernandez. I was honored to be there. The ceremony, ironically, took place on the courthouse square under the pecan trees and in front of the old limestone courthouse. Ironic because, you see, Mr. Speaker, the town was celebrating the release of Gilmer Hernandez from the Federal penitentiary. He had been sent to prison for, as local sheriff, Donnie Letsinger put it "just doing his job for the rest of us." The sheriff spoke the sentiments of most of the townspeople that I got to talk to.
The town was decorated with signs and flags and banners in windows of houses and in front of stores. Anyway, the ceremony started off with a lengthy prayer by the local Baptist preacher, and then there was a rousing pledge to the flag. There were tears and speeches by politicians. The mayor, Rachel Gallegos, presented Deputy Hernandez a proclamation from the city as Rocksprings' Favorite Son.
Most of the community turned out, many carrying signs of "Welcome Home, Gilmer." Gilmer's family was there, his wife, Ashley; and his wonderful young daughter. When Gilmer was shipped off to Federal prison, the people of this small town rallied around his family. The town paid the rent on his pickup truck, took his family into their homes, provided food, and took care of his mortgage on his house. They sent him letters while he was incarcerated; they prayed for him; and when he got home, he already had a job with the city and the local phone company.
Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting celebration considering Gilmer was a convicted felon. Gilmer Hernandez grew up in Rocksprings. His family is from there. He became a deputy sheriff for Edwards County. He always dreamed of being a lawman, even though he made a little bit over just $20,000 a year patrolling a county the size of Delaware.
Here's what happened sometime ago: while this young deputy was on routine patrol late at night, he came in contact with an SUV that ran the red light in Rocksprings, Texas. He pulled the vehicle over; and as he approached it, the truck sped off and swerved to run over the deputy. Gilmer pulled his weapon and shot out two tires in self-defense. The vehicle stopped, and numerous illegals, including the coyote smuggling the illegals into America, took off running. But one of Gilmer's bullets ricocheted in the SUV and hit a passenger as Gilmer fired at the fleeing vehicle. This was the first time Gilmer Hernandez had ever fired his pistol.
The sheriff and the Texas Rangers investigated the incident; and after investigating it thoroughly, they cleared Hernandez.
But upon the assistance of the arrogant Mexican Government one year after the incident, our almighty Federal Government prosecuted Gilmer for a civil rights violation, saying he should not have continued firing at the vehicle after it drove past him. So Gilmer Hernandez was sent off to prison at the behest of Mexico with the United States being the puppet. By the way, all of the illegals got to stay in the United States.
Many of the townspeople told me Saturday they thought Gilmer was right to defend himself. One old crusty Texas rancher called Gilmer a political prisoner.I and others of this House have asked the President to pardon Gilmer Hernandez, and we hope eventually the President does pardon him. He has, after all, served his time.
But Saturday, as the magnificent sun began to set, the town of Rocksprings came out to cheer and honor and praise and totally support its favorite native son. After all the hoopla, the town went down the road to the fairgrounds for barbecue and homemade desserts. And, by the way, the sheriff gave Gilmer back his badge, hoping some day he will be able to wear it again.
Deputy Gilmer Hernandez is a remarkable person, and the town of Rocksprings is a uniquely remarkable place to be from.
And that's just the way it is.