BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The heroism and sacrifices made by U.S. veterans will be honored at various ceremonies in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas today, Veteran’s Day.

Here are some of the scheduled events:

America’s Last Patrol Caravan

America’s Last Patrol will take a caravan from Brownsville to Roma. It was ten years ago this month that America’s Last Patrol marched from Edinburg to San Antonio to highlight the need for a Veterans Hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, who served his country as a U.S. Marines squad leader in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968, said at the time:  “We answered the call when our government asked us to go to war, now we ask that the government support us by providing the healthcare services we need. A veteran in South Texas shouldn’t have to drive 250 miles to San Antonio for medical and surgical care.”

During the 79th legislative session, Hinojosa was the senate sponsor of HCR 138 urging Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to build a veterans hospital in South Texas. He praised those marching to San Antonio.

“Their walk highlights their commitment to the cause of bringing much needed health services to the veterans of South Texas,” Hinojosa said. “Their actions remind the federal government that a 250-mile trip to see a doctor is unacceptable.”

Lydia Caballero, a Vietnam veteran and coordinator of the march to San Antonio, said veterans have gone long enough with only basic medical services offered. “The wait between doctor visits is disgusting, I don’t know about you, but I think it is laughable to assume that anyone will know they’re getting sick a year and a half ahead of time.”

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian about the 10th Anniversary of Last Patrol’s march, Commander Jose Maria Vasquez said: “We are taking this caravan from Brownsville to Roma because we need to remind the residents of the Rio Grande Valley that it has been ten years since we started our high-profile efforts to get a to Veterans Hospital constructed in the Rio Grande Valley.

“However, our campaign really started more than 65 years ago, at the end of World War II, when Dr. Hector P. Garcia formed the American GI Forum to combat discrimination against American veterans of Mexican descent. These veterans were being denied medical benefits and entitlements. On Veterans Day America’s Last Patrol will be carrying on the struggle for veterans’ health care in the Rio Grande Valley.”

For more information on the America’s Last Patrol caravan contact Lydia Caballero at (956) 648-1805.

McAllen War Memorial Service

Sen. Hinojosa will give the keynote speech at a Veterans Day event at the McAllen War Memorial. A KIA Memorial will be unveiled and students from Thigpen-Zavala Elementary in McAllen will form a parade to walk to the Veterans Memorial. The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony is at 11 a.m.  The McAllen Monitor newspaper says it will livestream the event on its website.

Hinojosa was recently named Legislative Champion of the Year Award by 2015 Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez, vice president of the Texas Mayors of Military Communities. Martinez praised Hinojosa for his “dedicated service and extraordinary efforts” on behalf of Texas military communities.

Hinojosa expressed his appreciation with this statement:

“I am thankful and humbled that the Texas Mayors of Military Communities has recognized me with this prestigious award. As a Vietnam Veteran for the United States Marine Corps, I understand the difficult sacrifices our military families endure on a daily basis and the critical importance military bases play in our state economy and workforce.

“The Corpus Christi Army Depot, in Senate District 20, is vital to the Coastal Bend area as it generates an economic impact of over $1 billion a year. That is why as Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee for the past three sessions, I have fought for and secured funds for the Texas Military Preparedness Grant Program to improve our military bases and to better serve our military families. For the 2016-17 biennium, I worked to ensure $30 million for grants to military defense impacted communities.

“This past session I also authored and passed SB 318 that increases the cap on grants awarded to military communities from $2 million to $5 million. In addition, I made recommendations to be studied during the interim to review state level support offered to Texas Military Bases to ensure they are well positioned to retain or expand their current missions during future rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) reviews, mandated sequestration cuts, or force troop adjustments by the U.S. Department of Defense.”

U.S. Senator John Cornyn

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas issued this Veterans Day statement: “Those who have sacrificed for our nation undoubtedly deserve this special day of recognition and thanks. But across this country, our gratitude should be demonstrated every day of the year, just like the unending sacrifice of our veterans. Today, on behalf of 27 million grateful Texans, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all veterans who have so valiantly defended our nation.”

La Joya ISD

La Joya ISD will be holding a special dedication ceremony of La Joya High School’s JROTC building this Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. at 604 N. Coyote Blvd., in La Joya. The current La Joya High School JROTC building will be renamed Omar Demetrio Flores JROTC Building after Army Staff Sergeant, Omar D. Flores who was a La Joya HS graduate and lost his life serving our country during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006. The ceremony will begin at 9:00 a.m. with high school JROTC battalion march, LJISD honor choirs and bands, poetry readings, family addresses, and gun salutes.

Alfredo Gonzalez Texas States Veterans Home

The Alfredo Gonzalez Texas States Veterans Home will host a Veterans Day program at 11:30 a.m. on Veterans Day. After a ceremony honoring the five branches of the military, residents and guests will be treated to a BBQ lunch. Members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Law Dogs Motorcycle Club, Patriot Guard, and other military service-supporting organizations will be participating in this event. The program is free and open to all.

The Alfredo Gonzalez Texas State Veterans Home is located at 301 East Yuma Avenue in McAllen.  It accommodates veterans with 160 beds including certified Alzheimer’s units, is owned by the Texas Veterans Land Board and is managed by Touchstone. The home is named in memory of Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez USMC a Medal of Honor Recipient. Gonzalez was awarded his medal posthumously after his heroic actions in the initial phases of Operation Hue City during continuous actions that occurred from Jan. 31 through Feb. 4 of 1968. Sergeant Gonzalez was born in Edinburg Texas and entered the Marine Corps in San Antonio.

City of San Benito

Ceremonies honoring all U.S. military service personnel are scheduled Wednesday at the San Benito Veterans War Memorial. All veterans are invited to join in Wednesday morning’s community-wide March of Veterans in downtown San Benito, and the public is asked to attend the ceremony which will follow at Veterans War Memorial.

The events are sponsored by the San Benito Veterans Advisory Board and the City of San Benito. The ceremony has grown in popularity in the past several years, attracting more than 200 people who wish to pay tribute to the men and women who keep this country free, he added.

“Our intent is to honor all military veterans who have served this great country,” said Victor Garza, Veterans Advisory Board chairman. Featured speakers include U.S. Congressman Filemon Vela, Vietnam Veterans Antonio Mendoza and U.S. Army retiree John Cashen.

The parade, to feature the Junior Navy ROTC and Color Guard, will begin at 8:50 a.m. in front of City Hall, 485 North Sam Houston. All veterans are asked to assemble at City Hall at 8:30 a.m. Persons wishing to honor a loved-one who served in the military are also invited to participate by carrying a photograph of the veteran in the march.

The parade will travel from City Hall to the Veterans Pavilion on Rowson Street, where the ceremony begins.

Various vocalists, including students from Fred Booth Elementary School under the direction of Natalie Montez, will add to the flavor of the ceremony. Events will conclude with a wreath-laying ceremony. Refreshments will be served courtesy of HEB Grocery of San Benito.

Commemorative bricks purchased just prior to the Veterans Day event will be in place in time for this year’s events at the Veterans War Memorial.

The brick pavers are designed to honor the service of all military personnel in the U.S. Armed Services, from all military conflicts and wars, as well as those who served during peacetimes.
At a cost of $100 per engraved paver, the proceeds raised through this effort go toward the purchase of black granite monoliths that will carry the names of those Killed in Action and those Missing in Action.

“Many people have bought the pavers to honor their loved ones, and some Veterans have bought them themselves in support of the local War Memorial. Also, some businesses have purchased bricks in support of our local Veterans,” Garza said. Non-Veterans, private individuals and corporate sponsorship bricks are also available for purchase, he added.

The San Benito Veterans Advisory Board is also offering Commemorative Black India Granite Benches as a tribute for any patriotic individual or business. The eight benches already positioned in the Memorial are located around the US Flag and Service Branch flags located in the center of the War Memorial. Cost per engraved bench is $2,500.

Funds raised from the sale of the benches will also help pay the costs of the granite monoliths.

Thanks to the continuing fundraiser, the Veterans War Memorial now features two bronze pieces: One commemorating World War II era veterans, and the second honoring Korean War Veterans. A third bronze piece will feature an American Eagle carrying an olive branch as a representation of the desire for a world without wars and peace everywhere.

Bricks may be purchased through any Veterans Advisory Board member or by contacting Garza at 956-399-7464, or Martha McClain, public relations director for the City of San Benito, at 956-361-3804 Ext. 301, or by visiting the San Benito City Annex at 400 N. Travis Street.

Brownsville Veterans Resource Center

On Tuesday, Congressman Vela announced the grand opening of the Brownsville Veterans Resource Center, which is the result of a collaborative effort between the City of Brownsville, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Congressman Filemon Vela.

“The Brownsville Veterans Resource Center will fill gaps in service and help our Veterans receive the benefits they have earned,” said U.S. Rep. Vela. “I thank the City of Brownsville and the VA for their willingness to work with our office to make this center a reality. I will continue to work with the VA, our partners and local organizations to see that additional services are offered at the Veterans Resource Center in the near future.”

Vela said the Brownsville Veterans Resource Center will provide the following services to Veterans:

•       Individual Readjustment Counseling
•       Support Group Meetings and Counseling
•       Military Sexual Trauma Counseling
•       Employment Counseling and Guidance
•       Community Education
•       Bereavement Counseling
•       Marital and Family Counseling
•       Benefits Assistance and Referrals
•       Substance Abuse Information and Referrals
•       Liaison with Community Agencies

“In honor of Veterans Day, and to commemorate all veterans who have served our country, the City of Brownsville is pleased to inaugurate this partnership with the McAllen Vet Center,” said Brownsville City Manager Charlie Cabler. “Our veterans deserve our support here at home, and we hope this action will improve their quality of life.”

Cabler said the Brownsville Veterans Resource Center will be staffed by VA counselor and Brownsville native, Pedro Villarreal, who served in the Marine Corps as an infantryman from 2002-2006, and has deployed to Iraq four times.

Hidalgo County Retired Senior Volunteer Program 

On Tuesday, Hidalgo County Commissioners Court honored “the service of veterans as RSVP Volunteers and all veterans for their heroic efforts in keeping the United States, the State of Texas and Hidalgo County a free country.”

The Hidalgo County Community Service Agency sponsors the Retired Senior Volunteer Program which places veterans in volunteer positions of community service. Veterans are placed in agencies, such as La Joya Senior Center, Mission Hospital and McAllen Driscoll Children’s Hospital, where they are able to do what they do best, helping and serving others. CSA honors and recognizes veterans doing volunteer work that improves lives and strengthens communities.

“November 11 of each year is the day that we ensure that our veterans know that we, as Americans, deeply appreciate the sacrifices they have made to keep our country free,” said CSA Director Jaime Longoria, while presenting the proclamation to the court.

DPS Director Steve McCraw

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw issued the following statement regarding Veterans Day:

“Millions of courageous men and women have valiantly answered the call of duty to serve in the United States Armed Forces and committed their lives to defending America from all threats. On Veterans Day, we pause to recognize the selfless patriots of the past and present, and show our appreciation for the multitude of sacrifices they’ve faced along the way.

“The freedoms we enjoy as American citizens today exist because of the noble dedication by scores of U.S. military heroes, whose contributions have helped shape a great nation and created a legacy worthy of praise – and they will never be forgotten.

“At the Department of Public Safety, we feel especially honored and grateful for the military veterans who are now members of DPS – their dedication, experience and willingness to serve and protect Texas bring tremendous value to our state.

“On Veterans Day, we also recognize all military families, who endure their own challenges with grace and who steadfastly support their U.S. service member day in and day out. We are thankful to each of these families, as they play a special role in the efforts by our military men and women – who, for generations, have continued to proudly protect our liberties and defend the land of the free.”

Community Colleges

There are also Veterans Day events at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, TSTC-Harlingen, and South Texas College’s campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City.