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It took 25 years, but the perseverance and leadership of Col. Frank Plummer paid off this Veterans Day as the community dedicated the 105-foot American Spire of Honor at the Veterans Memorial of Texas in McAllen.
"This spire represents the courage, spirit and the valor and the sacrifices of all the men that have been killed, and women of course," Plummer said. "Approximately 1.4 million Americans have been killed in all the conflicts."
That means, Plummer said, about 5,400 people have died every year for the past 238 years of liberty.
"Freedom is not free," he said.
Central to the memorial, the spire is made of steel and concrete and has five sides, one for each of the branches of the nation’s military. It’s surrounded by five guardian/sentinel walls to recognize donors to the memorial.
It’s also surrounded by five American flags—one for each of the Valley men who have died in Afghanistan or Iraq: Lt. Andres Zermeño, of Brownsville, who died Sept. 25, 2011, in Afghanistan; Spc. Kurt Kearn, of McAllen, who died Dec. 27, 2011, in Afghanistan; Staff Sgt. Joseph Fankhauser, who died April 22, 2012, in Afghanistan; Sgt. Rodolfo Rodriguez, who died Sept. 14, 2011 in Afghanistan; Sgt. Estevan Altamirano, who died Sept. 18, 2011, in Iraq.
"These valiant soldiers, our nation's defenders of freedom, answered the call of duty," said Irma Agueros, Veterans Memorial board member. "They protected our nation's liberty. To the people of the Rio Grande Valley community, rest assured that they will be remembered at the Veterans War Memorial of Texas as long as this nation is free."
More than 20 years ago when Plummer and other veterans started the project, he said he knew it had a chance when the city of McAllen agreed to donate five acres next to the convention center. McAllen Mayor Jim Darling emphasized that the memorial is not a city of McAllen facility, rather it's for the Valley.
Darling, a veteran himself, said it was an honor to serve and he's learned a lot about responsibility. But responsibility, he said, is a two-way street.
"Our federal government and president have a responsibility to not send our young men and women to fight in wars that do not truly advance the protection of our American interest," Darling said. "Our congress has a responsibility to stop treating our veterans like second-class citizens and not providing the promised benefits, especially to those veterans and families who never enjoy the life that they had prior to their service in the military."
The memorial isn't finished. Plummer has plans for a dome with a glass star at the top that would surround the spire and glow green at night. But right now, there's not enough money to build it.
"This is an ongoing project," Plummer said. "Liberty and freedom is an ongoing project.
"Let this great huge facility that’s a sacred place, that’s a place of pride and service, remind everybody, that we have a duty to our veterans every day."
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.