By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
It’s not all about backyard barbecues, furniture and mattress sales, or getting to take Monday off work, although you could be forgiven for thinking that’s the purpose of this weekend.
It’s not about consumerism or kicking off summer. It’s not about donning red, white and blue clothing.
It’s about taking a moment — hopefully more than a moment — to reflect on the reason why we can enjoy all those things unencumbered.
It’s about remembering a special class of people, a rare breed among our fellow citizens. It’s about remembering and honoring the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces and have paid the ultimate price for that service. It’s also about remembering our veterans who served then returned as valuable members of our communities, sharing their knowledge and their lives with us before passing on.
Yes, we celebrate during Memorial Day weekend and on Memorial Day itself. Yes, that’s ok. We should celebrate our freedom, our great nation — which has long been great — our families and our neighbors. But amidst the patriotic themed celebrations, let us not lose sight of the veterans we are meant to honor this holiday.
I’ve written before about how I learned of the Valley’s connection, via Harlon Block, to the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II. Block, a Weslaco native, was killed by a mortar blast just a week after that triumphant moment was captured on film.
Then there’s my hometown’s hero, Freddy Gonzalez, who rescued an injured comrade while under fire and led his platoon despite suffering several injuries himself and ultimately succumbing to them during the Vietnam War. Gonzalez’s name and legacy can be found all over Edinburg, from a busy thoroughfare that bears his name, to a municipal park, to an elementary school. Growing up, however, I always recognized him as the young man who had been friends with my mom in high school. To this day, mom still shares stories of what that friendship was like.
Most of us know someone who gave their lives in service to our country. That means that those columns of names etched in marble and granite at war memorials around the country are more than just faceless collections of words, they are our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, our neighbors. They are our family. The very least we can do is honor their memory.
For those wishing to do just that, the Town of Laguna Vista will be hosting a Memorial Day parade and ceremony Monday afternoon beginning at 5:30 at the library. Port Isabel VFW Post No. 8791 will also be conducting a somber service Monday morning at the Port Isabel City Cemetery.
For the families still grieving the loss of a loved one who served, know that our community has not forgotten you or the sacrifice your loved ones have made and we thank them for their service.
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