Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Community Gathers for Veterans Day Event

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Veteran’s Day at South Texas College allowed veterans of every age to gather and herald the service and sacrifice of America’s armed forces. Hundreds attended ceremonies at all five of the college’s campuses, including many student and staff veterans, as well as community members.

“It was a wonderful feeling to be part of the crowd, seeing all our students and staff  veterans being honored for their bravery,” said STC President Shirley A. Reed. “The sacrifice it takes to leave your family behind to protect our country is something I have always admired. Veteran’s Day will always be a very important day at the college and we believe that our service to and thanks for our veterans is not a one day thing, but something we practice every day at STC.”

Flag raisings at all five campuses kicked off the morning’s festivities, followed by a series of special talks and events at every campus.. But the day’s activities were capped off at the Starr County Campus with a very special talk by 93-year-old World War II veteran Gregorio Barrera, a Starr County native. He survived the Bataan Death March and three and a half years as a Japanese prisoner of war. He agreed to a rare appearance, answering questions from a packed house of students and community members.

“What kept me going were my ‘guardian angels’ as I like to call them because I never knew who they were, but they showed me kindnesses along the way, like giving me medicine or sparing me from death,” he explained as he discussed the abuse he received and the horrors he saw. “I still have nightmares about it.”

“My mother was a woman of faith and prayed hard for my safety, but no one could tell her where I was,” he explained. “The day I came home, no one knew anything of me. I will never forget the expressions on their faces. We had a big celebration. We even had a piece of meat.”

The crowd of students was stunned to hear some of the details about Barrera’s time as a POW, but campus officials believe the lesson provided was invaluable.

“Now the students have a better understanding of the true price of freedom,” said Ruben Saenz, STC Starr County Campus coordinator. “It was an invaluable, once-in-a-lifetime experience for them. We hear people complain about many trivial things today and talks like this go a long way in helping us keep things in proper perspective.”

To close the talk, a representative from State Rep. Ryan Guillen’s office presented a resolution to Barrera in honor of his service. Students also had an opportunity to take pictures with Barrera.

Additionally, STC Starr County Campus students and staff veterans were saluted at the event including  students  Liza R. Cruz, Jose Cortez, Rachel Cortez, Antonio Espericueta, Roberto Fuentes, Joel Garcia, Raul Guerrero, Bruno Lozano, Ernesto Pena, and Eloy Rosales; and staff members Javier Arredondo, Joe Gomez, Ricardo Olivarez, Jose Pena, Abel Reyna and Ruben Saenz.

Photo caption:
93-year-old World War II veteran and Starr County native Gregorio Barrera explains the true price of freedom to South Texas College’s Starr County Campus students on Veteran’s Day 2010.

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