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Representatives from the Palo Alto Battlefield fired a cannon in salute to veterans of the Armed Forces, during the UTRGV Veterans Day ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, on the Main Lawn at the Brownsville Campus. (Photo courtesy of UTRGV/David Pike)

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Texas Southmost College and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley were among the Valley institutions to honor veterans and their families on Veterans Day.

Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and commemorated the end of World War I (Nov. 11, 1919). In 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day.

While Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day and held on the last Monday in May, honors U.S. service men and women who have died in service to their country, Veterans Day pays tribute to all U.S. veterans, living or deceased, who have served their nation.

At TSC, faculty, staff and students held their third annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the Gorgas Hall Flagpole area. TSC Criminal Justice Institute Instructor Maz Martínez was the keynote speaker. Martínez served in the Marine Corps for six years and was honorably discharged.

“Veterans Day is a day not only reflecting on the service of men and women, but it also means remembering that service continuously and not forgetting the values and principles these veterans fought for and some have even given their lives for,” Martínez said. “A lot of veterans attend TSC and this type of ceremony really shows them that the college is interested in not only their service, but helping them complete their education and transforming their lives.”

Sgt. Carlos Rodríguez, a TSC student, served with the Marine Corps from 1981-85 and with the Army from 2005-13. “We’re here today and have our freedom because of our veterans,” Rodríguez said. “This is the second ceremony I’ve attended and it’s a great thing that TSC does by recognizing the veterans. I hope this tradition continues throughout the years.”

At the UTRGV Edinburg campus, students, faculty, staff and veterans gathered at the Chapel Lawn. At the UTRGV Brownsville campus, students, faculty, staff and veterans gathered at the Main Lawn. Both campus ceremonies had the presentation of colors and a 21-gun salute.

The events were sponsored by the ROTC, Student Involvement, Student Veterans of America, Veterans Services and Veterans Upward Bound, a federally funded program to prepare and assist eligible veterans to access and pursue higher education.

UTRGV professor of nursing Eloisa Támez is a U.S. Army veteran. Her father was a veteran also. In the keynote speech at the Brownsville event, Támez said the nation’s veterans symbolize the freedom we enjoy.

“It is my belief that we nurses are the best patient advocates and must take this role seriously, so our veterans receive optimal healthcare, always,” she said. “This has always been my commitment to our veterans, and I assure that all personnel in my work of service knew that and practiced it.”

At the Brownsville ceremony, three cannon salutes honored those currently serving in the military, those who served in the past and those who died while serving.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey also spoke at the Brownsville ceremony, which began at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, to commemorate the date and time of the ending of World War I in 1918.

“It’s a great honor to honor our veterans, and we have a number of our veterans here from World War II, the Korean War, and from all of our conflicts since that time. Thank you so much for being here,” Bailey said. “We should always remember that we’re here because they were there, and it’s very important. We can’t honor them enough.”

UTRGV Vice President for Student Success Dr. Kristin Croyle expressed her appreciation for veterans and praised UTRGV’s student veterans for the contributions they make to the campus community. She spoke at the Edinburg event.

“When they come to campus, our student veterans make campus a better and richer place for all of us,” she said. “They bring a level of discipline and dedication to their work here that is an inspiration to our students and to our faculty and our staff. They support each other and support other students, and advocate for what they know is right, and the right way that we should treat our students.”

Students said they appreciated the fact that UTRGV was honoring veterans and that the university is providing services for student veterans and their loved ones.

Patrick Roberts is chapter president of the Student Veterans of America at UTRGV. Roberts served eight and a half years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said it is important for student veterans to have resources available to them, to help them adjust from military to college life.

“There’s a huge transition phase that many veterans go through, getting out of the military. And having a department like the Veterans Services Center and an organization like the Student Veterans of America chapter here at UTRGV and at other campuses across America, helps bridge that gap,” Roberts said. “It helps that transition process. It gives veterans a place to go to, other veterans to talk to and feel welcome, to feel like they can be themselves until they get used to being around everyone else.”

Quentin Cammack is a U.S. Navy veteran. Cammack earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at UT-Brownsville, a forerunner to UTRGV. Cammack said Veteran’s Upward Bound helped him with a variety of needs when he was a student, like helping him enroll in classes and submitting paperwork for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

“I don’t normally look back at people that helped me, but I appreciate them helping me,” Cammack said. “Looking back at me attaining a bachelor’s degree was a very important thing. My mom and dad never finished college and, for me, it was a big feat to prove that I can do it, and to also help show my daughter that she can do this, too. Just put your mind to it and focus hard, and one day you can attain your goals.”

Among the guest speakers at the Edinburg event were Capt. David Weiss of the U.S. Army National Guard, and former U.S. Army Sgt. Lynette Linn. They talked about their experiences in the military and about the importance of taking time out to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. “When you live your lives, make sure it’s a testament to those who are no longer able to live theirs,” Weiss said.