McAllen’s Veterans Day ceremony celebrated at war memorial

Sgt. Wonjae Yu, with Texas National Guard of Weslaco helps set up a camouflauge net for guests at the Veterans War Memorial during the Veterans Day Ceremonies on Monday, Nov.11, 2019 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

MCALLEN — It was nearly 9 p.m. in Afghanistan on Monday when Army Sgt. Cristina Wilson’s voice rang through the Veterans War Memorial for a morning ceremony in McAllen.

“Raising your hand and committing yourself to service is a brave and selfless act,” Wilson said via telephone from her fourth deployment overseas.

She thanked the dozens of veterans on hand — including some from World War II, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, “recognizing all of those among us who have been part of this great brotherhood and sisterhood.”

Daniel Garcia with McAllen Police Department Honor Guard bows his head during a moment of silence at the Veterans Day Ceremonies at the Veterans War Memorial on Monday, Nov.11, 2019 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Wilson was a “special guest” among many current and former military men and women at the war memorial Monday, including McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, a Vietnam veteran, and retired Army Col. Frank Plummer.

“I want to say thank you to all the veterans out here for your service. I know some of us came back about 50 years ago weren’t very welcomed,” Darling said at the outset of the Monday morning ceremony.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, who is not a veteran but is the child of one, made sure to thank veterans a number of times throughout his keynote address on Monday.

Joshua Guzman, Sgt. Marlene Villanueva and Sgt. Wonjae Yu, with Texas National Guard of Weslaco set up a camouflage net for guests at the Veterans War Memorial during the Veterans Day Ceremonies on Monday, Nov.11, 2019 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

“I’d like to thank Col. Plummer for all his work and really relentless efforts in everything he’s done for the veteran community here,” Gonzalez said. “I’d like to thank all of you here today.”

Gonzalez went on, outlining an issue he has taken up since he was elected to Congress in 2016.

“The diversity of our nation and our military is one of our greatest strengths,” Gonzalez said. “But I would be remiss if I did not mention the same of the veterans who we would be celebrating today had they not been cast from our nation.”

Daniel Jaime, 87, of McAllen is awarded the Congressional Gold medal during the Veterans Day Ceremonies at the Veterans War Memorial on Monday, Nov.11, 2019 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Two weeks ago, Gonzalez issued a statement supporting the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing entitled “The Impact of Current Immigration Policies on Service Members and Veterans, and their Families.” The hearing sought to address the Trump administration’s immigration policies and deported U.S. immigrant veterans.

In his speech on Monday, Gonzalez hailed one veteran who was deported who since died: “He fought for our home and we turned him away.”

Gonzalez also discussed the importance of mental health in the military: “Do not be afraid to seek help.”

And Gonzalez said he is working on legislation to train members of the military when they enlist and upon their departure from active service.

Ricardo Chapa, 89, of McAllen served in the Army, 1948-1949 and in the Marines 1950-1952 attends the Veterans Day Ceremonies at the Veterans War Memorial on Monday, Nov.11, 2019 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

The ceremony then honored the few Purple Heart veterans in attendance. There were moments of silence. There was the 21 Gun Salute.

Before the ceremony came to a close, a Korean War veteran grabbed a microphone.

“Please don’t take this for granted,” he said.

mferman@themonitor.com