Brian Birdwell

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Brian D. Birdwell
Member of the Texas Senate
from the 22nd district
Assumed office
July 2, 2010
Preceded by Kip Averitt
Personal details
Born (1961-11-03) November 3, 1961 (age 54)
Texas, USA
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mel Birdwell
Children Matthew Birdwell
Residence Granbury, Hood County, Texas, USA
Alma mater

Lamar University

University of Missouri-Kansas City
Occupation

Retired Lieutenant Colonel,
United States Army;

Owner, Face the Fire Ministries
Religion Christian (Baptist)
Website http://www.brianbirdwell.net/

Brian D. Birdwell (born November 3, 1961)[1] is a Republican from Granbury, Texas, who represents District 22 in the Texas Senate. A retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, Birdwell is a decorated survivor of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on September 11, 2001.[2]

Senatorial tenure[edit]

To win his Senate position, one of thirty-one in the state, Birdwell defeated former Republican state Senator David Sibley in a special election held on June 22, 2010. He replaced Kip Averitt of McGregor, who had succeeded Sibley in 2002. Averitt cited health problems when he resigned from office a week after having been renominated in the March 2 party primary. In the first round of balloting on May 8, Sibley led Birdwell but fell short of the majority required to win outright.[3] Sibley, who had supported some Democrats in the past and tried to force Birdwell off the ballot,[4] carried endorsements from former U.S. President and District 22 resident George W. Bush, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples of Palestine, and veteran U.S. Representative Joe Barton. Birdwell secured the support of activists from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and the Tea Party movement, Texas Republican National Committeeman Bill Crocker, as well as several sheriffs and county commissioners across the largely conservative district. He was also endorsed by Scott O'Grady of Dallas County, a pilot shot down in Bosnia in 1996.[5] Birdwell prevailed, 14,218 votes (57.9 percent) to Sibley's 10,339 ballots (42.1 percent).[6]

District 22 includes Bosque, Coryell, Ellis, Falls, Hill, Hood, Johnson, McLennan, Navarro, and Somervell counties.[7] Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, the ex officio president of the Texas Senate, named Birdwell to five committees: Higher Education (Vice-Chair), Veterans Affairs & Military Installations (Vice-Chair), Economic Development and Government Organization.[1]

In 2015 during the 84th Texas Legislature, Birdwell authored SB 1735, a measure which would have reduced veterans' state educational benefits.[8] He rejected Texas Governor Greg Abbott's calls for Texas to fund those benefits for Texas veterans and their children.[9] While proposing to cut benefits for Texas veterans and their children, Senator Birdwell compared himself to soldiers in the Normandy invasion in France on D-Day.[10] The Texas House of Representatives rejected all but one of Birdwell's recommendations to cut student education benefits to Texas veteran's and their families. Birdwell argued that rising costs from legislation pushed decades earlier by state Senator Grady Hazlewood of Amarillo, which permits veterans to attend state institutions without tuition expenses, threatens the solvency of overall state educational funding.[11] In response to claims that he had betrayed Texas veterans and their families, Birdwell blocked criticism from Texas veterans from being posted to his Facebook page.[12]

A lifelong Republican, Birdwell backs conservative causes across the board, including opposition to abortion and euthanasia, and the health care policies of U.S. President Barack Obama.[4] Birdwell was a featured speaker at the June 2006 Republican State Convention in San Antonio, while residing in Springfield, Virginia. He keynoted the 2007 Texas State Presidential Straw Poll in Fort Worth. He was a delegate to the Republican State Convention in June 2008 in Houston. He is an immediate past vice president of the Hood County Republican Club.[7]

In his campaign, Birdwell said that "Texas faces great challenges in the next session on issues ranging from the budget, standing up to an overreaching and out-of-control federal government, and preserving the conservative values which have made Texas the envy of the nation. Citizens can count on me to be a conservative champion on these issues."[7]

Education and military service[edit]

A Texas native, Birdwell is a 1984 graduate of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, with a degree in criminal justice. In 1996, he procured a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.[1] Commissioned as a field artillery officer in 1984, his military duties began at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was stationed across the United States, South Korea, and Germany. In 1990, he was deployed to the preliminary military build-up known as Operation Desert Shield and then Operation Desert Storm, or the first Gulf War. He was part of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment cited at the Battle of 73 Easting in Iraq when the 7th Corps struck the Republican Guard of Saddam Hussein. For his work in Iraq, he earned the Bronze Star. In 1998, he was sent to Central America to conduct humanitarian operations after Hurricane Mitch.[7]

At the time of the Pentagon attack, Birdwell was a military aide to the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. When American Airlines Flight 77 crashed near his office, Birdwell was thrown from his second floor office to ground level. He sustained serious burns, many to the third degree, over 60 percent of his body.[7] He was rescued by Rob Maness, then a United States Air Force officer who subsequently ran unsuccessfully in 2014 for the United States Senate from Louisiana, a position won instead by another Republican, Bill Cassidy. Maness did not know that it was Birdwell whom he had rescued until 2016, when the two met again while Maness was raising funds for a second U.S. Senate race in 2016 at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.[13] On his second day in the hospital, Birdwell received a surprise visit from his commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, who stood patiently in salute as Birdwell could barely raise and lower his wounded arm.[14] Birdwell underwent thirty-nine operations, long hospitalizations, and numerous skin grafts. He credits his physical and spiritual healing to grace through Jesus Christ. For his wounds at the Pentagon, Birdwell was awarded the Purple Heart. Upon retirement, Birdwell received the Legion of Merit.[7]

Family and ministry[edit]

Birdwell and his wife, Mel Birdwell (born ca. 1967), were married in 1988. They have formed Face the Fire Ministries, a non-profit organization that supports critical burn survivors and wounded service personnel and their families. The couple has written Refined by Fire: A Family's Triumph of Love and Faith,, the story of their life-changing ordeal[2] and have spoken on the topic as well.[15] Birdwell is a national speaker for David Barton's WallBuilders organization. He has appeared on various network and cable news programs and has been profiled in the Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, and the Los Angeles Times.[7]

The Birdwells have a son, Matthew Birdwell, a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. They attend Lakeside Baptist Church in Granbury.[7]

Unopposed November 2, 2010[edit]

Birdwell ran unopposed in the general election on November 2, 2010, as the Democratic nominee had withdrawn from consideration in September. Texas Democratic leaders had, like David Sibley earlier, challenged Birdwell's eligibility to run. State law requires that one live in Texas five years before running for either governor or for either house of the state legislature. Birdwell voted in Virginia in 2006, but he had purchased property in Texas in 2005, intended to relocate to his native state, and was declared by the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to have hence met the residency rule.[16]

Cruz campaign[edit]

Birdwell is one of three co-chairs of the Veterans Coalition supporting Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential campaign. He is joined in "Vets for Ted" by former U.S. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire and U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma. Bill Connor is national director of the coalition.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Brian Birdwell personal profile". texastribune.org. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Face the Fire". facethefire.org. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Gulf War vet Brian Birdwell wins runoff for Central Texas state Senate seat". Dallas Morning News, June 23, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Republican Brian Birdwell Certified for May 8 ballot". prnewswire.com. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Endorsements of Brian Birdwell". brianbirdwell.net. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Special election returns, Senate District 22, June 22, 2010". sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Brian Birdwell". brianbirdwell.net. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Senate Bill 1735" (PDF). capitol.state.tx.us. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
  9. ^ Matthew Waller (January 3, 2015). "Abbott lays out plan for session". gosanangelo.com. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Senate Committee on Higher Education". tlcsenate.granicus.com. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
  11. ^ Matthew Watkins (May 30, 2015). "Bill to Rein In Hazlewood Costs Dies". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Texas Veterans Opposed to Senator Brian Birdwell". Facebook. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
  13. ^ Mark Ballard (July 24, 2016). "U.S. Senate candidate Rob Maness meets Texas senator he helped save on 9-11 when both were soldiers". The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Birdwell saluted". snopes.com. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  15. ^ Birdwell, Brian. "Refined by Fire". WVCY-TV 30. Retrieved April 15, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Christy Hoppe, Brian Birdwell Stays on the Ballot, August 19, 2010". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Sen. Cruz Names U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, Congressman Jim Bridenstine, and Texas Sen. Brian Birdwell Co-chairs of Vets for Ted; Bill Connor to Serve as National Director". tedcruz.org. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
Texas Senate
Preceded by
Kip Averitt
Texas State Senator
from District 22 (Granbury)

2010-
Succeeded by
Incumbent