Rio Grande Valley residents have always held strong appreciation for departed family members, as well as for those who have been willing to place their lives in jeopardy to defend the people and interests of our country. Evidence of the first is clear not only in Day of the Dead commemorations but in the nearly ubiquitous skeletons and other images of death that pepper our communities.
Evidence of the second is clear when one of our children who paid the highest sacrifice is brought back home. Legions of Valley residents, many of whom never knew the fallen warrior, line our streets, attend memorial services and otherwise show our support for the family; we share their loss.
The two come together on Memorial Day, when communities traditionally hold commemorative marches, ceremonies and other gatherings, and families visit the graves of our departed heroes. Some families’ recognitions are more personal, bringing samples of a loved one’s favorite food or drink as they share intimate thoughts and prayers before the gravestones.
This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has necessarily dampened many public Memorial Day commemorations this year; even as stayhome orders are being eased, many marches and other activities were called off, partly in deference to the safety of the many aging veterans who often are big part of the gatherings and who might have more trouble dealing with the effects of any viral infection.
However, that hardly lessens the appreciation we all feel for those who normally are part of the day, and our heartfelt gratitude that so many of our neighbors, despite constant reports of discrimination and mistreatment directed toward people of most South Texans’ heritage, believe in the overall goodness of the country and recognize that those who express hatred are the true minority. Despite the attention such people get, America is worth defending — even with our very lives.
Perhaps this year’s conditions and the more subdued public recognition gives many of us a greater opportunity to reflect on that dedication to country, and to duty, that so many Valley natives have shown.
Instead of the hectic mini-vacation or cookouts that this threeday holiday usually inspires, many of us will stay home, hoping to avoid unnecessary exposure to the novel coronavirus that lingers in many parts of the U.S. And we can devote more time to think about the many people who have gone off to war, and the many who didn’t come back alive.
It might be easier to appreciate that calling in South Texas, where we still see remnants of the many struggles that fill our nation’s history. We have many memorial sites, from Fort Brown in Brownsville to the Rio Grande Veterans Cemetery in Mission, that reflect two centuries and dozens of military encounters. But we also have preserved many sites where those struggles played out, from 19th century border wars to Texas’ fight for independence and even the Civil War that rent our homeland.
Let us honor the sacrifice of all those who have fought and died for us, and pledge that we will do our best to ensure that it always will be worth the sacrifice.