Thank you. I can't think of a more appropriate place for a gathering of those who have served in our nation's military than here in this Capitol, the seat of state government.
Because without the courage and sacrifice of the brave men and women in the United States armed forces, the many freedoms we enjoy in this country would not be possible.
So I want to take this moment to again thank our veterans for all you have done, and all you continue to do. Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of six million Missourians, thank you.
You represent the half a million military veterans who live in Missouri. half a million Missourians from every part of the state, from every demographic group, and from every branch of the armed services.
A Missouri veteran might be 89, and he may have volunteered on December 8th, 1941, before serving in Europe, or the Pacific . Or she may be someone who is 29, who enlisted on September 12th, 2001, and who completed multiple tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Our veterans are as diverse as our state.
But whether you served during times of conflict or during times of peace, what our veterans have in common is that all of you stepped forward to serve our country when you were called to duty.
The last couple of years, we've marked several anniversaries that are significant, to our country and to our men and women in uniform - including ten years since Nine-Eleven. twenty years since Desert Storm. and of course, seventy years since Pearl Harbor.
And I had the privilege of being at two special events to honor our military veterans who served in other conflicts.
One event was last summer at the State Fair in Sedalia, when we honored those who served in Vietnam, where America's involvement began fifty years ago.
That day, I gave the Governor's Achievement Award to two combat veterans - United States Marine Greg Davis, who lost both his legs while disarming North Vietnamese land mines; and to Doc Ballard, a Navy Corpsman who that day was wearing the Medal of Honor he received for saving the lives of several Marines while under heavy enemy fire. If you were there that Sunday afternoon, you know the roar of several dozen Harleys being ridden by the Patriot Guard in the exhibition center was a fitting tribute.
And almost two years ago, I was in Independence with General David Petraeus to take part in a ceremony marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War. That event included thanks from the people of South Korea, as well as eloquent remarks honoring our military veterans from that conflict from General Petraeus, who himself has a distinguished record in serving our country.
Throughout my time as Governor, I've had the honor to be at an armory or a high school gym in a Missouri town several times when members of our National Guard are deployed.
You can see that it's not an easy thing for them to leave their loved ones behind. but you also get the real sense of dedication and professionalism of these Citizen-Soldiers, and their determination to accomplish their missions.
I see those qualities of dedication, professionalism and determination when I go to Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base, two of our country's most important installations that are located right here in Missouri.
And they've been very evident during my trips overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've had the opportunity to not only speak directly with our military and civilian leaders there, but also to sit down and talk with soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from Missouri and elsewhere.
These men and women are serving with honor in a dangerous part of the world. our support of the troops and their families back home must be unwavering.
When those active-duty troops leave the service someday, they may become civilians, but they will always be veterans - continuing to be deserving of our respect, honor and support.
One of the most memorable ways I've been able to show our respect and honor for veterans has been to present the French Legion of Honor to five Missourians who served with distinction during World War Two. This is the highest award the French government can bestow, and all these gentlemen were recognized for their valor during the liberation of France.
I was honored to present these medals, and just as honored to have them share their stories with me.
Almost 70 years have passed, but these men in their 80s and 90s - Gilbert Pritzel, Perry Coy, Lloyd Cain, Frank Crooks and Bud Jones - still carried themselves with a pride that was well-deserved.
They exemplified courage and complete selflessness - traits they share with the veterans of every generation, and with all those here.
Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake - on my watch, as your Governor, we will continue to stand with our military veterans to ensure they have the support they need and deserve. And that support will stand with a certainty that will not recede, nor waver, even years down the road.
I am very proud that as veterans, you have chosen to call Missouri your home. The continued productivity of veterans long after their military careers are over is something that we as a state value tremendously.
And that's one of the reasons why we want to continue to have retired military veterans make their homes here - and why we are phasing out the state income tax on military veterans who retire in Missouri. This tax will be completely gone in just four years, by Twenty-Sixteen.
I also know that many of those now in our military are concerned about having a good job when they leave the service. That's why we started the Show-Me Heroes program. For the past 26 months, we've been working to enlist employers around the state to make a simple commitment: That when they have a job opening, the resume of a veteran will go to the top of the stack for consideration.
Employers recognize the benefit of hiring someone who is disciplined and determined - two apt words to describe those who have served. It's a win for them, it's a win for the veteran, and it's a win for Missouri.
As of this morning, 1,803 employers from around Missouri are part of the Show-Me Heroes program. Think about that - almost 2,000 Missouri employers -- and those employers have hired more than 1,000 Missouri veterans over the past two years.
And we're working to strengthen the Show-Me Heroes program this year by including a new component for on-the-job training for recently returned veterans. That's a bill we need to pass this year.
Show-Me Heroes is a very tangible way to honor those who have given so much of themselves for us.
I know you're here today to make your voices heard in this Capitol on many issues that touch the lives of veterans. Believe me, you are being heard.
I know the vital role that our state veterans homes play in caring for our veterans - and how the services these homes provide are in great demand, now more than ever.
I've been to our homes, and I've talked with the dedicated administrators and staff, and with the residents who served our country with honor.
That's why in this year's budget, I included full funding for the operation of our veterans homes.
Let me be clear - I give you my word that on my watch, we will support our veterans homes and the veterans who live in them.
Those who served our country deserve a sustainable and long-term plan for veterans homes and for other vital veterans programs. and that includes a dedicated source of funding. Let me be clear once again - on my watch, we will support our veterans homes and the veterans who live in them.
Our nation's freedom is something our military veterans will never take for granted. They served to help preserve the freedoms and liberties we cherish and value.
We, in turn, can never take for granted your service and sacrifice on our behalf.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice. I wish you Godspeed on your work today, and promise to always stand with you, and work for you.
God bless our veterans, and God bless the United States of America and the State of Missouri. Thank you.