Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry brought along six decorated war veterans to the S.C. Military Museum on Monday to drive his message that he will strengthen national security and veterans care.
It was Perry’s first Palmetto State stop since announcing his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination last week.
Asked what sets him apart from the crowded GOP field in South Carolina’s Feb. 20 primary, Perry said he and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, are the only veterans seeking the Republican nomination.
Perry, who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 but dropped out two days before the S.C. primary, said his election would mean “having a president that gets up everyday thinking about these young men and women serving our country in a very sacrificial way, and making sure that when they do come home that they have the services that we promised them.”
Among the veterans joining Perry in Columbia were Marcus Luttrell, a Texas native portrayed in the movie “Long Survivor,” and Medal of Honor winner Michael Thornton, a Greenville native.
“For us, it’s not about politics. It’s about supporting someone who knows and cares for us,” said Peter Scobell, a former Navy SEAL who took part in the real-life rescue of the captain of a pirated ship portrayed in the film “Captain Phillips.”
Like other Republican White House hopefuls visiting pro-defense South Carolina, which holds the South’s first presidential primary, Perry led with military issues over the economy.
Praising veterans and their families, Perry told supporters gathered Monday that “having a cause bigger than myself paints my world view.”
The former Lone Star State boss also told The State that the country needs to strengthen its economy to preserve its national security. “The most important thing a president is going to do is create an economy that can sustain a military that can have an impact in the global world,” Perry said before his speech.
Some of the biggest applause Perry received came when he mentioned that 2,000 Texans volunteered last year to protect the U.S. border with Mexico.
Perry also mentioned briefly other priorities in his campaign: bolstering the nation’s energy reserves by building the XL Pipeline; ending the Common Core education plan; and lowering corporate taxes to grow jobs and generate a “renaissance in manufacturing.”
Perry compared the current state of the nation to the late 1970s under Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
“We were on our backs.” Perry said, noting the country’s resolve in surviving the Civil War, two World Wars and the Great Depression.
Then, Perry added, “We made it through Jimmy Carter, ladies and gentlemen. We will make it through the (Barack) Obama years.”