The Rio Grande Valley is unique in many ways, as residents are well aware. In addition to the culture, environment and wildlife that can hardly be found anywhere else, the Valley’s location on the border has made its people and officials accustomed to the presence of federal law enforcement.
That’s a good thing in these unusual times, especially with the recent deployment of Navy personnel to help the region deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to affect many local residents.
According to the Texas Tribune, medical professionals from the U.S. Navy have been sent to Harlingen, Rio Grande City, Eagle Pass and Del Rio, where cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. The White House Coronavirus Task Force has designated nearly half of the state’s counties as “red zones,” or pandemic hot spots. The crisis in the Valley has grown to the point of drawing national attention.
The use of federal military personnel to address civil unrest in Minnesota and Oregon and the announced deployment of military troops to patrol Chicago and other cities has raised concerns among many Americans. The Valley, however, has long had a significant federal presence with DEA, FBI, USDA, immigration, customs and border protection officers. Federal and National Guard troops have been deployed here to help patrol the border, and National Guard personnel routinely come to the area as part of Operation Lone Star to help administer health checks and vaccinations to prepare children for the school year.
Most recently, guardsmen and women came to the Valley in May to help clean and disinfect local nursing homes and other facilities that had suffered major coronavirus outbreaks.
Our familiarity with military and Guard personnel — especially with the very idea of having them among us — probably reduces the potential for the kind of resentment the Navy personnel might arouse in other areas.
Certainly, South Texas residents support our nation’s military; it’s no secret that a significant percentage of Valley natives volunteer for military service, and we have a significant population of proud veterans. We see the incoming Navy personnel not as an occupying force, but as fellow Americans who have come to help us address a local, and national, crisis.
Our familiarity with past deployments has enabled us to recognize that they are fellow Americans, just like our sons and daughters who might be enlisted in naval or other military forces. They are here to do a job, and we both need and appreciate the effort.
Certainly, the benign operation differs from the troop presence in the cities listed above; those deployments lend themselves to controversy and opposition. It’s unfortunate that the pandemic has hit the Valley hard enough to require this kind of assistance, but we’re grateful that the assistance has been sent.
Like the dedicated men and women who have come here in military previous deployments, we trust the current teams of naval professionals will encounter the kind of hospitality for which the Valley is known, and receive all the respect and assistance they need to help us during this difficult time.