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A date to remember

A statue of Sergeant Jose M. Lopez is displayed at the Veterans Memorial Park, located at 2500 Central Blvd. in Brownsville. Lopez was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Aztec Eagle, which he received on Dec. 17, 1944. MARIO GONZALEZ/ THE RIDER
A statue of U.S. Army Sgt. Jose M. Lopez, World War II Medal of Honor recipient, sits at Veterans Memorial Park, located at 2500 Central Blvd. in Brownsville. MARIO GONZALEZ/ THE RIDER

For many, it is a day to go to the beach, barbecue or stay home. However, Memorial Day is an observation for the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the country.

“Memorial Day is a day that we put aside to remember the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, which is their life in defense of this nation,” said Martin Rodriguez, director of UTRGV Veterans Service Center.

Rodriguez served in the Army from 1994 to 1998 as a helicopter mechanic with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as “Night Stalkers.”

Rodriguez said he believes people should be thankful for the freedom that the nation has today.

“I think we live in a place where a lot of what we have is taken for granted. People don’t really realize how much sacrifice people put in order for us to have the liberties and the freedom that we have right now,” he said.

René Valdez, director of UTRGV Veterans Upward Bound, said he thinks there is an overall misunderstanding about what Memorial Day is meant to represent.

“The misconception is that it is another celebration such as Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day or Flag Day,” he said. “Those are celebrations. Memorial Day is an observation, a solemn day of observance where men and women gave the ultimate sacrifice during all our history not just the current conflicts, but World War I, World War II, the Civil War, the [American] Revolution; I’m saying an observance of all of that.”

Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, was established to pay tribute by decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers from the Civil War with flowers, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

“Later on after World War I, [the holiday’s name] changed because this was a national war, instead of a war between the north and the south and during that time is when it picked up and became Memorial Day. It became official in 1971,” Rodriguez said.

It is important to know what Memorial Day means and what it represents because it is not only a day off, but a day of remembrance.

Valdez expressed that anyone can take a little of their time to honor and pay respect during this day.

“I feel that we can honor these individuals who gave the ultimate sacrifice by having a moment of silence in appreciation during Memorial Day,” he said. “A simple way is to just go to the flagpole and spend a moment of silence in appreciation. That is something I think can be done easily.”

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