More than 800 veterans and their families honored Bill White with two standing ovations at the American Legion state convention in Beaumont on Friday.

Rick Perry confirmed that he would speak at the event as well, but later declined to appear in person.

White spoke about his father, a disabled World War II veteran who went to college on the GI Bill, going to American Legion events when he was younger and earning an American Legion scholarship to college.

He also discussed his record as Houston’s mayor for treating veterans as VIPs.

“We set our goal to make our city the best place in the United States for returning veterans and gathered all the civic leadership: the leaders of the faith-based organizations, the major corporations, the elected officials and others,” said White. “We gathered them in command center room and listened to the stories of some of our returning veterans.”

The outcome of these meetings was a special initiative to give returning veterans the welcome they deserve with coordinated social services, reductions in red tape and employment opportunities. Since its implementation in 2007, the Department of the Army has recognized the program as one of the finest in the country and Houston has been named one of the most military friendly cities to live and work.

White pledged that as governor, he would scale up the special initiative for veterans he helped create in Houston.

“I commit to you that if I’m governor there will be an office of veterans reporting directly to me, staffed by veterans, who will make sure we cut through the red tape and make sure there’s no such thing as a forgotten veteran as there should be no such thing as a forgotten war in the state of Texas,” said White. “We want Texas to be the best place in the United States for returning veterans.”