McAllen VFW post endeavors to pay homage to fallen on Memorial Day

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It’s Memorial Day weekend and right now Americans across the country are observing the national holiday with barbecues, brisket and beer. But there are also those who give of themselves to make this time of year more meaningful for the men and women who the holiday honors.

The VFW Post 8788 in McAllen is composed of some of those very individuals who dedicate their time to holding hundreds of funerals for veterans in the community, and who commit their efforts to supporting those who served in the armed forces.

In fact, their schedule is filled during this time of year to do just that.

On Friday, the post participated in the funeral service for U.S. Army Intelligence Specialist Ruben Alejos, 85, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mission. And on Monday, Memorial Day, the post’s presence will be felt all over the Rio Grande Valley at ceremonies dedicated to paying tribute to the fallen.

For the post’s commander, Raul Munguia, helping other veterans is more than just an act of kindness but also as a way for him to honor the men in his family who have served in the various branches of the military.

Munguia’s own dedication to this cause is rooted in his past.

His family’s history in the military began with his grandfather, Leocadio San Miguel from Monterrey, Mexico, who joined the U.S. military at 18 years old in an attempt to receive his U.S. citizenship.

Leocadio went on to serve for 20 years.

Since then “every male member” in his family including Munguia and his son served in the military.

Munguia, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army and who retired as a captain, has since used his time to support and honor his fellow comrades through the post.

Col. George Gonzalez, U.S. Army, left; Chief Petty Officer Arnold Garza, U.S. Navy; Urbano Corpus, U.S. Army veteran and bugle captain; Raul Munguia, right, U.S. Army Reserve retired and commander with VFW Post 8788 during a funeral at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

“I feel like I’m helping my family as well as other families,” Munguia said.

With the VFW post, Munguia and his team have honored veterans and fallen soldiers by conducting funerals, helping with benefits, medical needs and shelter.

“We give honors to our fallen veterans, our fallen comrades,” Munguia said with a tender tone.

According to Munguia, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the post would hold an average of about 125 to 160 funerals per year. During the pandemic, however, that number spiked to about 248 funerals.

No matter the number, Munguia and his team were determined to give each fallen soldier the honor they deserved.

He explained that the funeral honors consist of at least 13 veterans who help in presenting the 21-gun salute and perform taps as well as fold the flag.

As of Friday, they have held 63 funerals so far this year.

Munguia explained that the post is currently working on building a new post behind their current building on Bensen and Pecan in McAllen with the help of the Shovel Ready Grant, which has provided $750,000.

Munguia hopes to expand the VFW in the area to provide services to more veterans across the Valley.

Not only does the post hold funerals for fallen heroes but there are also two service officers who help veterans acquire their VA benefits.

U.S. Army Sgt. Cruz Yanez, left; and Col. George Gonzalez, right; members with VFW Post 8788 in McAllen assist with the folding of a flag during the funeral service for an Army veteran at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

“We have people that work at the (Veterans Affairs) administration that know how to go and apply to get these entitlements fulfilled,” Munguia added.

Even the word benefits is a source of frustration for Munguia, who said VA benefits are owed and therefore refers to them as “entitlements.”

They also help veterans by providing a place to stay when necessary and assisting in doctor visits.

This Memorial Day the post will be hosting four events where they will be providing a service, a presentation and a 21-gun salute at various locations in the Valley.

The first service will begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Saint Flores Cemetery followed by another ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Hidalgo Cemetery and ending at 11:30 a.m. at the La Piedad Cemetery in McAllen.

After the ceremonies the post will provide lunch for those in attendance

“It’s giving back to our community, to our veterans and I love it,” Munguia said. “I just enjoy doing what I’m doing.”

Homer Gallegos, left, with VFW Post 8788 during the funeral service for police officer Edelmiro Garza Jr. at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery on Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])