Army veteran Lupe Gonzalez said he has two birthdays – his actual day of birth and the day he returned from Vietnam. He doesn’t celebrate publicly but he does make sure to go to church and pray for those who fought alongside him.
“I do remember all the people who did not return. I pray for them and for all those that did get back,” Gonzalez said. “I was one of the lucky ones.”
The principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the keynote speaker for the A.C.E. Club of Mission Memorial Day program. One of the points he said he always tries to make when speaking about the military is that soldiers don’t like war.
“Soldiers are not the ones who make wars, but they’re called upon to defend their country in the time of need,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a big difference between those that served and those that glorify war.”
Gonzalez joined the military after college and served from 1968-1970. He was in artillery and did most of his fighting at night. During the day, his unit prepared to fight in the evening, sleep deprivation occurred as a result.
He waited 40 years to visit Veteran’s Affairs, where he was diagnosed as a disabled veteran due to Tinnitus and posttraumatic stress disorder.
The 71-year-old said he is just thankful veterans are respected today because that was not the case when he left the military in 1970. Gonzalez recalled being told to put on civilian clothes if he wanted to remain safe, and he remembers people saying crude things or spitting on veterans at airports.
“Now you get a sense of self worth and a sense of appreciation,” Gonzalez said. “Memorial Day is to honor those who died serving in the U.S. military, those who died for their country.”
The program for A.C.E Club of Mission will start at 6 p.m. at Leo Peña Placita Park on Memorial Day, May 25.
American Legion Post 93
The American Legion Post 93 will hold programs throughout Monday, May 25. There will be a prayer, 21-gun salute and playing of “Taps” at each gathering.
The post will host ceremonies at Laurel Hill – 8:30 a.m., San Jose Cemetery – 9 a.m., Catholic Cemetery – 9:15 a.m., Granjeño – 10 a.m., and Rio Grande Valley State Veteran Cemetery – 11 a.m.
Flags will be provided for the plots that do not already had flags.
Catholic War Veterans Post 1056
The CWV will also hold services on Memorial Day at various cemeteries. The schedule is Laurel Cemetery at 8 a.m., Mass at CWV Post 1065 at 9 a.m., San Jose/Catholic Cemetery (Mission) – at 10 a.m., Peñitas Cemetery at 10:30 a.m., San Jose Cemetery (Abram) at 11 a.m., and Leo Peña Placita Park at 6 p.m.
There will be a 21-gun salute at each cemetery and at Leo Peña Placita Park.
RGV State Veterans Cemetery
For the last nine years, the RGV State Veterans Cemetery has hosted a service to memorialize deceased veterans from all branches. The service begins at 8:30 a.m. and will be conducted by the VFW Post 8788 of McAllen.
The cemetery is located at 2520 South Inspiration Road, in Mission.