Mr. Speaker, I rise today because this is a unique day in the history of the great State of Texas. Today, March 2, marks Texas Independence Day; and on this day 174 years ago, Texas declared its independence from Mexico and its dictator, Santa Anna.

In 1836, in the small farm village of Washington-on-the-Brazos, 54 Texians--as they called themselves--gathered to do something bold and courageous: they signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico and once and for all declared that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, sovereign and independent republic.

As these determined delegates met to declare independence, Santa Anna and his 6,000 enemy troops were marching on an old beat-up Spanish fort, a mission that we call the Alamo. There, Texas defenders stood defiant and stood determined. They were led by a 27-year-old lawyer by the name of William Barrett Travis. The Alamo and its 187 Texans were all that stood between the invaders and the Republic of Texas. And behind the cold, dark, damp walls of that Alamo, Commander William Barrett Travis sent the following letter to Texas requesting aid. Here is what this appeal said in part:

"To all the people of Texas and Americans throughout the world, I am besieged by a thousand or more of the enemy under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannon fire for over 24 hours, but I have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at its discretion, otherwise the fort will be put to the sword. I have answered that demand with a cannon shot, and the flag still waves proudly over the wall."

"I shall never surrender or retreat. I call upon you in the name of liberty and patriotism and everything dear to our character to come to our aid with all dispatch. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country. Victory or death.''

--William Barrett Travis, Colonel, Texas Army.

After 13 days of glory at the Alamo, Commander Travis and his men sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. However, those lives would not be lost in vain. Their determination did pay off, and because heroes like Travis, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie held out so long, Santa Anna's forces took such great losses they became battered and demoralized. As Travis said, ``Victory will cost them more dearly than defeat.''

The Alamo defenders were from every State and 13 foreign countries. They were black, brown, and white. Their ages were 16 through 67, and they were all volunteers. They were mavericks, revolutionaries, farmers, shopkeepers, and freedom fighters; and they came together to fight for something they believed in: freedom and independence.

General Sam Houston, in turn, had the time he needed to devise a strategy to rally other Texas volunteers to ultimately defeat Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

The war was over, and the Lone Star flag was visible all across the broad, bold, brazen plains of Texas.

Texas remained a nation for 9 years and claimed land that now includes part of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, even up to the Canadian border.

In 1845, Texas was admitted to the Union by only one vote when a Louisiana Senator changed his mind. By treaty with the United States, Texas may divide into five States, and the Texas flag is to fly even with the U.S. flag and not below it.

So, today, we remember that Texas was a glorious nation once and won freedom and independence because some fierce volunteers fought to the death for liberty over tyranny.

One of my grandsons is named Barrett Houston in honor of Travis and General Sam.

In Colonel Travis' final letter from the Alamo, he signed off with 3 words: God and Texas, God and Texas, God and Texas.

And that's just the way it is, Mr. Speaker.