SGT. Edward Anguiano – Los Fresnos – 23 Mar 2003 – Iraq

PFC. Juan Garza – San Benito – 8 Apr 2003 – Iraq

PFC Rey Cuervo – Laguna Vista – 28 Dec 2003 – Iraq

PFC Dustin Sekula – Edinburg – 1 Apr 2004 – Iraq

SSGT Christopher Ramirez – Edinburg – 14 Apr 2004 – Iraq

LN.CPL Pedro Contreras – Matamoros, Mexico – 21 Jun 2004 – Iraq

SSGT Hector Perez – Brownsville – 24 Jul 2004 – Iraq

SGT Daniel Galvan – Mercedes – 12 Aug 2004 – Afghanistan

SGT Juan Calderon – Weslaco – 2 Aug 2004 – Iraq

SPC Mark Zapata – Edinburg – 15 Aug 2004 – Iraq

SGT Tomas Garces – Weslaco – 6 Sep 2004 – Iraq

MAJ Gary Moore – Los Fresnos – 9 Nov 2004 – Iraq

SPC Issac Diaz – Rio Hondo – 1 Dec 2004 – Afghanistan

LN CPL Julio Alvarez – Pharr – 6 Jan 2005 – Iraq

SGT. Javier Marin – Mission – 24 Jan 2005 – Iraq

SGT. Joseph Rodriguez – Brownsville – 28 Jan 2005 – Iraq

LN Cpl Christopher McCrackin – Brownsville – 14 Nov 2005 – Iraq

SPC. James C. Kesenger – Pharr – 13 Dec 2005 – Iraq

LN Cpl Samuel Tapia – San Benito – 18 Dec 2005 – Iraq

SPC. Jessie Davila – Raymondville – 20 Feb 2006 – Iraq

LN Cpl Benito Ramiez – Edinburg – 20 May 2006 – Iraq

PFC Kristian Menchaca – Brownsville – 19 Jun 2006 – Iraq

SGT. Omar Flores – Mission  – 8 Jul 2006 – Iraq

SSG. Hector Leija – Raymondville – 24 Jan 2007 – Iraq

PFC Darrell Shipp – Harlingen – 25 Jan 2007 – Iraq

LN Cpl Anthony Aguirre – Raymondville – 25 Feb 2007 – Iraq

SGT. Juan Campos – McAllen – 1 Jun 2007 – Iraq

SPC James Adair – Harlingen – 29 Jun 2007 – Iraq

SPC Eric Salinas – Harlingen – 2 Aug 2007 – Iraq

SPC. Jose Rubio – Mission – 23 Mar 2008 – Iraq

SPC Alex Gonzalez – Mission – 6 May 2008 – Iraq

SGT. Braulio V. Martinez – Edinburg – 27 Oct  2008 – Iraq

SGT. Bradley Espinoza – Mission – 19 Oct 2008 – Iraq

SGT. Fernando de la Rosa – Alamo – 27 Oct 2009 – Afghanistan

PFC Adriana Alvarez – San Benito – 10 Feb 2010 – Iraq

LN CPL Derek Hernandez – Edinburg – 7 Jun 2010 – Afghanistan

SPC DiegoMontoya – Mission – 2 Sep 2010 – Afghanistan

PFC Ira Laningham – Zapata – 7 Jan 2011 – Afghanistan

SGT. Rudy Rodriguez – Weslaco – 11 Sep 2011 – Afghanistan

SGT. Estevan Altamirano – Edcouch – 17 Sep 2011 – Afghanistan

1LT. Andres Zermeño – Brownsville – 25 Sep 2011 – Afghanistan

SPC Kurt Kern – McAllen – 29 Dec 2011 – Afghanistan

SGT. Joseph Fankhauser – McAllen – 22 Apr 2012 – Afghanistan

Warrant Officer Jose Montenegro – Brownsville – 5 Sep 2012 – Afghanistan

SGT. Johnathan Golinitz – Brownsville – 26 Sep 2012 – Afghanistan

SPC Kevin Caradiza – Mercedes – 11 May 2013 – Afghanistan

SSGT Michael Anthony Cinco – Mercedes – 21 Dec 2015 – Afghanistan

(My sincere apologies to the family and friends if I inadvertently omitted the name any service member who died in Afghanistan or Iraq) 

Citizens of the Valley always have been very patriotic. When our nation goes to war, our young men (and now women) are quick to serve. Consequently, the Valley tends to pay a high price in the loss of our sons and daughters. Such was the case in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as we see in the names listed above. Proportionate to population, the Valley had one of the highest loss rates in the nation.

It is not only fitting, but a moral imperative, that we recognize and honor our fallen heroes who gave their last full measure for us.

For many, Memorial Day is a day off from work; a day to have a cookout for family and friends, to go on a picnic or to the beach. But it also should be a day of at least some solemnity and reflection on the hundreds of thousands men and women who sacrificed their lives for this nation, sacrificed lives for the principles and ideals we hold dear, sacrificed for us.

This Memorial Day should be especially poignant because it is the first Memorial Day in twenty-two years the United States has been at peace, that young men and women from the Valley do not stand in harm’s way. In the 51 years since Congress established Memorial Day as an official national holiday in 1968, the U.S. has been at peace eighteen years. Sixty-seven percent of that time, 35 years, the U.S. has been at war with someone.

We like to call ourselves a peace loving nation. Are we? In the two hundred forty six years since declaring independence in 1776, the U.S. has fought 102 wars and been at war with someone for a total of 168 years—for 68% of our nation’s history, we have been at war. Fighting multiple wars at once is not unusual. At one point during the Civil War, the Union also was fighting wars with 5 Native American tribes/nations. There have been at least 12 times when the U.S. was fighting multiple wars; 13 of we count World War II as separate wars against Germany and Japan, with Afghanistan and Iraq being the most recent.

Memorial Day has an interesting history. Though not made a national holiday until 1968, the first observances of what became Memorial Day began during the Civil War when, in May, women in both the South and North started going to cemeteries to lay flowers at the graves of fallen soldiers.

Initially called Decoration Day, former Union General John Logan called for a national day of remembrance on 30 May 1868. Initially established to commemorate Civil War dead, North and South, after World War I, Decoration Day came to honor all of those we have lost in war. Over time, the name evolved from “Decoration Day” to “Memorial Day”.

In 2000, Congress passed legislation calling for all Americans to pause at 3:00pm local time for a National Moment of Remembrance. A tradition developed out of that — “Taps Across American” whereby, at 3pm local time, buglers play “Taps” in memory and honor of those who sacrificed all so we could live free.

If we truly support our troops, shouldn’t we do more to ensure their safety by being wary when the bugles of war begin to blow? After all, the Valley pays a high price for these wars. On this Memorial Day, we especially should reflect on those lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps we also should reflect on whether these wars we fight truly are in the “national interest”. Don’t we owe that to our fallen?

“And say not thou, ‘My country right or wrong”; nor shed thy blood for an unhallowed cause’.” President John Quincy Adams

Today, we are a nation divided, and whether we will continue to live as a free people is in question. So, this Memorial Day, as we celebrate, have fun, have cookouts, picnics, go to the beach, perhaps we should pause for more than a “moment” and reflect on the sacrifices made in our behalf, and whether we want to see those sacrifices ultimately to have been in vain.  

Perhaps we should do more than reflect for a moment on those who gave their lives for all of us.  Perhaps we should think about how much we all hold in common. Our common ground is far greater than the things dividing us. In our reflections, perhaps we can find a way, even while holding to our differences, to acknowledge we still are one people, and begin to heal.

For my dear friend and brother in arms, 1LT Thomas A. Biddulph, KIA, Quang Tin Province, Viet Nam, 27 Oct 68.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by retired educator, writer, and Vietnam Veteran, Samuel Freeman. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Freeman can be reached by email via: [email protected]

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