Madam Speaker, yesterday, under the bright sun and blue sky of a Texas Sunday afternoon, American flags flew in the silent breeze over thousands of quiet marble uniform tombstones in the Houston National Cemetery. This is where Texans bury their war dead, men and women who go off to war for America.
In the center of the immaculately kept cemetery, a tribute of sacrifice was being made to the living: Those mothers who lost their children in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mothers of Texas who gave their children that died in their youth so the rest of us could live in safety were honored on this Gold Star Mothers' Day.
I was present along with Congressman Gene Green and Congressman Nick Lampson and Congressman Kevin Brady to honor these special ladies. We, like those present, were emotionally affected.
Gold Star Moms are what we call them - a mother who lost a child in combat. This concept started in World War II when Grace Seibold learned on Christmas Eve 1918 that her aviator son was killed in aerial combat in France. Grace Seibold directed her grief and sorrow to helping wounded doughboys in local D.C. hospitals. She formed the Gold Star Mothers to give support for other such moms.
During World War I, if a son had gone off to war in the War to End All Wars, as it was called, a banner was hung in front of the home in the window for each son in the military. This banner had a blue star in the center of it. If the son was killed, a gold star was superimposed over the blue one.
During World War II, my Grandmother Poe hung such a banner with a blue star in the front window of her home in the country. My dad went off to war when he was just 18. When my grandmother died, it was one of the few items she had saved. That banner never had to have a gold star placed on it because my dad returned safely.
Madam Speaker, here is a banner of a Gold Star Mother. It has the name of the soldier that was killed, William Amundson, Jr. He was killed in Afghanistan. He was from Woodlands, Texas. He was a corporal in the United States Army.
The blue star banners are very similar to this except in the middle there is a blue star rather than a gold star. And when that son or daughter is killed in combat, the gold star is superimposed over the blue one. These banners have been carried throughout all of America's wars since World War I and applies to sons and daughters killed in war.
So yesterday these mothers of the fallen were there. And standing guard around them were the Patriot Guard motorcycle members, rugged Vietnam veterans who escort the fallen to this cemetery for burial. There was a 21-gun salute. Then after all of the speeches, these women were given yellow roses from Texas and the buglers played Taps for the fallen.
Madam Speaker, as a father of four, I can think of nothing worse than to lose one of my own kids. No parent wants their son or daughter killed in unknown foreign lands. No parent wants their child to predecease them, and no parent wants their child to die in their youth. But it happens, and the grief can only be understood by other such parents.
As Congressman Green said yesterday, ``Even the greatest heart surgeon in the world, Dr. Michael DeBakey, cannot repair such a broken heart of a mother like this.''
Mothers are special, especially the mothers of those who wear the American uniform. Those who keep statistics on the last words of soldiers say more often than not that the dying words of many soldiers in combat is, ``Mother, mother.''
It seems to me the strongest bond in all of creation is the bond between a mother and her child. The good Lord made it that way on purpose, and when that bond is broken by the loss of a child, that wound just never heals.
Madam Speaker, one out of every nine people in the military is from the State of Texas, and about 400 Texans, 10 percent of the total killed of 4,000, have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet sons and daughters throughout America continue to join our military knowing that they will no doubt go into the desert of the sun and the valley of the gun, and they leave behind their parents, their mothers.
So as we show honor and respect to America's children who serve, let us show American compassion and ultimate gratitude for the mothers of those troops who display the Gold Star sacrifice from their windows. And the next time we pass a house with one of these gold stars, one of these 4,000 throughout the United States, and they are being displayed in the window, maybe we should stop and say a prayer and say ``thank you'' because of that special mother who gave that child for the rest of us.
And that's just the way it is.
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