HARLINGEN — Last year, the pandemic forced the Memorial Day observance at Pendleton Park to go virtual.
But Monday, police, firefighters and other patriots will gather once again at the park’s Veterans Memorial at 1425 Morgan Blvd. to honor the nation’s fallen.
“The main highlight is it will actually be a ceremony where we’ll be able to have participants in the audience,” said Harlingen Police Sgt. Sal Carmona, chairman of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board.
That board and the Veterans Memorial Project Committee are organizing the event.
“People will come and actually be in the event,” Carmona said. “This will be the first opportunity to bring family members and friends and patriots back into an audience to be a part of the ceremony.”
The event Monday at 7:30 p.m. will begin with a welcome address by Mayor Chris Boswell, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the National Anthem.
“We are going to have a candlelight vigil in honor of all those that have fallen,” Carmona said. “We will also recognize, with a wreath display, the hundredth anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We’re going to bring that up with a few remarks.”
The event will also include a missing man table to honor those unable to be present at the ceremony, plus a traditional soldier’s cross with boots and helmet.
“We’ll talk about each one of those,” he said. “We’re going to display a candlelight vigil, so that’s why we’re doing it at 7:30 at night.”
He expressed excitement at once again holding the event in person.
“We wanted to bring the families back together,” he said. “We will also have the chairs separated and have it limited to 15 participants. We still want to honor and respect people’s decision to stay socially distanced. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can and will be encouraged to wear a mask.”
Those who would like to get an early start on Memorial Day can gather for another ceremony at the American Legion 205, located at 504 American Legion Dr.
“We are going to be here at 7 o’clock in the morning,” said Commander Edward Villafranca.
The event will begin with a speech, followed by a raising and lowering of the U.S. flag, then the playing of Taps.
Everyone will have breakfast and then gather at Lt. George Gutierrez Jr. Park, also known as La Placita Park.
“We stop there and do a 21-gun salute, and then we’ll hit all the cemeteries that are in the surrounding area to honor the veterans buried there,” he said.
At each cemetery, veterans will raise and lower the flag and deliver a 21-gun salute.
“That’s what we do,” he said matter-of-factly.
Carmona looked forward to Monday’s events at both locations.
“We’re ready to get back with the camaraderie of those patriots that love and honor the military and the family members that have lost military members to all the battles,” he said. “We want them to understand that yes, they are appreciated, their sacrifice is most definitely appreciated and respected.”