Noem delivered the keynote speech as an honoree at a gala put on by Helping a Hero, an organization that provides specially adapted homes to severely wounded veterans. Her state of South Dakota was recently named number one for veterans due to low housing costs for those who have served, high percentages of veteran-owned businesses, and a lack of tax on veteran pensions.
In her remarks Wednesday night, Noem touted her state’s support for veterans but voiced concern over policies that ignored the “sacrifices that were made on our behalf for our freedoms and our liberties.”
“Listen, we have leaders right now that are overstepping their authority in a time of crisis and taking away the freedoms that these warriors have fought for,” said Noem.
“We are losing our perspective.”
Noem has been harshly criticized for not enacting more stringent pandemic restrictions on South Dakota residents. The popular Republican governor has this year catapulted to the national spotlight due to her refusal to impose statewide mask or stay-at-home orders. Noem says her state’s “balanced approach” has prevented the kinds of economic distress seen elsewhere in the country.
The sparsely populated state has seen a rise in cases in recent months and reports more than 900 deaths out of an estimated population of 884,664, but in response to media allegations of an overwhelmed hospital system, Noem said fewer than 20 percent of hospitalizations in her state are due to COVID-19.
New York, the fourth most populous state in the nation, has enacted far more rigid pandemic restrictions, but is also experiencing a dramatic rise in cases and has reported more than 34,000 deaths. Second in population, Texas too is experiencing a case surge, primarily in the western region, and reports 22,114 deaths.
Noem’s visit to Texas coincides with public outcry this week as numerous elected officials who have demanded more restrictions and warned citizens not to travel have been exposed for violating their own protocols.
In Texas, Austin Mayor Steve Adler reportedly delivered a video message urging residents not to engage in holiday travel while he was vacationing with family in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Just south of the Helping a Hero gala, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner was photographed with un-masked friends and himself unmasked at events after warning residents they could face a $250 fine for violating mask orders.
The Helping a Hero gala took place in Montgomery County, which has recently urged the cancellation of events of more than 10 people in private facilities, but few of the several hundred attendees wore masks.
Event sponsor CIMR Scientific provided its patented air filtration devices throughout the facility. Developed and tested with the US Army Corp of Engineers, the US Air Force, and NASA, the devices were originally designed for the military to fight bioterrorism, and create a hydrogen peroxide gas technology to sanitize the air. The company says the devices destroy viruses from “the entire coronavirus family,” along with those causing SARS, H1N1, influenza, and multiple others, but are completely safe for “people, pets, and plants.”
CIMR technology is already employed in hospitals, military installations, and government offices across the country and including Harris County, and company president Joseph Trahan explained to The Texan that the company had only been given permission to sell the military-grade technology to the public in May of 2020. Trahan says the system can allow employees to return to work safely, even in restaurants and retail establishments.
In wrapping up her comments, Noem also pushed back on history revisionists seeking the destruction of monuments to America’s founders and past leaders. She decried members of a “radical movement,” who she said avoid directly attacking dedication to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” but instead work to demonize founders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Although these groups have been successful in removing historical monuments elsewhere, Noem said they were not welcome in her state.
“When that radical movement said that they were coming to South Dakota to tear down Mount Rushmore, I said, ‘Not on our watch.’”
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.