In a gesture to honor the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have made great personal sacrifices to ensure our freedom and protection, the Texas Transportation Commission has approved granting free passage for select veterans on state operated toll roads.

The decision will benefit Texas resident veterans who are either disabled or recipients of the Purple Heart and/or Congressional Medal of Honor. Statewide the number of veterans who qualify to drive free of charge on these roads is estimated at 160,666.

TxDOT says most toll roads are run by regional toll authorities or county and municipal authorities and for privileges to be extended there would require actions enacted by those regional branches of government. But where state toll roads go, those veterans have more than earned a free pass.

The state's toll roads are primarily found in Central Texas. Qualifying veterans will be able to drive free of charge on Loop 1, SH 45 North, SH 45 Southeast and SH 130 (Segments 1-4) in the Austin area. Additionally, they will be able to travel free of charge on the Camino Columbia, which is SH 255 near Laredo and Loop 49 in Tyler.

The program comes at the request of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who asked the Transportation Commission to begin implementing a program that would help support Texas veterans getting around the state with less financial burden.

The latest estimates show the cost of managing the program to be less than $1 million annually. The Transportation Commission has asked TxDOT to begin implementing this program for qualified veterans by Jan 1, 2013.

It's encouraging to see the state of Texas extend this small token of appreciation to our veteran men and women so deserving. Let's hope the local government authorities operating the other toll roads follow the state's lead... And let's encourage every state in the U.S. to do the same, if they're not already expressing their gratitude in this small but appropriate measure.