Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
A plaque on the Alamo wall states: “The Alamo: The Thermopylae of Texas.” The Alamo is a tribute to all those that are defiant against any form of tyranny. It is important for us to recognize all those that sacrificed for freedom, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Remember who we are and what we stand for – Remember the Alamo.
175 years ago this month, 187 freedom fighters started assembling in an old beat-up mission in San Antonio. Juan Seguín and his company of Tejanos, rode into the Alamo and readied for battle alongside William Barrett Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. This rag-tag group of relentless patriots, made up of men from nearly every state in the Union and 13 foreign countries, including Mexico, readied for one of the most storied battles in our history.
Outnumbered by an overwhelming Mexican army, these Texas warriors knew that surrender was not an option. Retreat was never on the table. Victory or death.
On February 23, 1836, Santa Ana’s army of 1500 well armed troops unleashed on the defenders of the Alamo. During the siege, Travis sent out his famous call for reinforcements. Juan Seguín was the last messenger to leave, riding though enemy lines carrying the final message from the beleaguered mission. Unfortunately, the call for help was not answered in time. Travis and 187 volunteers sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom after thirteen glorious days at the Alamo.
It was at his final battle that my favorite Texas war hero, William Barrett Travis, penned the most famous letter in Texas history. From behind the walls of a besieged rundown mission in San Antonio, Travis wrote:
“To the people of Texas and all Americans in the world, fellow citizens and compatriots, 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 north wall.
“I shall never surrender or retreat. I call upon you, in the name of liberty and patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to my aid with all dispatch. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible, die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country. Victory or death.”
I could read this over and over. As a child, I was so intrigued by this letter. I would always be the first in my class to volunteer to play Travis at any given opportunity, if only just to read his words aloud. To me, he was the ultimate hero.
History teaches us everything we need to know, if we just look. This letter was written nearly two centuries ago and its message still rings true today. It’s a story of “liberty and patriotism and everything dear to the American character.” Freedom is still worth dying for. And to do so as a soldier, “is what is due his honor and that of his country.”
Travis believed these words whole-heartedly. He believed that the cause for independence was worth his life. Our freedom fighters today understand these words as well, they know that America is worth fighting for and that defeat is not an option.
When I visit our troops over in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Texas boys, and gals, are easy to spot. They usually have a Texas flag flying on their humvee. (I have even seen one on a tank!) My personal favorite is the “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker. And when you meet these modern-day freedom fighters, you know that no truer words have ever been spoken. There’s just something about a Texas warrior.
As we continue to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Texas Independence this year, I will take a look back at those that put it all on the line for freedom. As much as some things change, the most important thankfully stays the same. A century and half later, that same dogged determination that filled that little Spanish mission is what continues to set us apart from all the rest. “God and Texas.” – William Barrett Travis.
And that’s just the way it is.