Port Lavaca welcomes home war hero (w/video)
PORT LAVACA - Army Master Sgt. Jesse C. Alderete, 49, received a hero's welcome on his first trip home after his official retirement from the military.
"It was overwhelming," Alderete said. "The community friendship gave me a warm feeling."
En route from San Antonio to Port Lavaca, Alderete was met in Victoria by his son, Port Lavaca Police Officer James Michael Alderete, 25.
With lights flashing, Officer Alderete drove his father the rest of the way home in his squad car.
Several Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles and in trucks escorted the veteran home with lights flashing and U.S. flags waving in the wind.
More flags marked the parade route once the entourage arrived in Port Lavaca.
A fire truck with a flag flying high over the road from its extended ladder sounded its siren as Alderete passed.
Crowds of community members waved posters and flags at different places along the road, and a few of Bill Bauer's restored military vehicles were parked at the corner of Seadrift Street.
More friends waited for Alderete at his home on Leon Street. Simon Beard Jr., 5, ran to greet his grandfather.
Gardenland Nursery donated landscaping to adorn Alderete's front yard before his arrival.
Port Lavaca Mayor Jack Whitlow delivered a short speech, read the proclamation that declared Feb. 21 Jesse Alderete Day and presented the veteran with a key to the city of Port Lavaca.
"He is a local hero, and the community wanted to show him that we really care," Whitlow said. "We usually don't do enough for the veterans when they retire."
Pastors Erny McDonough with Fisherman's Chapel in Port O'Connor and Johnny Kisiah with Six Mile Assembly of God Church in Port Lavaca led the prayer.
"We wanted to give him the welcome he deserved," Kisiah said. "He has excellent character, and I'd like for our young people to look up to him - a real Christian."
Debra Holmes, a family friend whose husband, Weldon Holmes, served in the Vietnam War, organized the hero's welcome for Alderete.
"I was inspired by my husband, who did not receive a hero's welcome," Holmes said. "It was hard for him to come home, and he carried that bad feeling with him for a long time."
Weldon Holmes also participated in the parade from Victoria to Port Lavaca. He followed in Alderete's truck.
"It also really helped my husband," Holmes said. "Mentally, you don't know what it does to the soldiers who serve for us."
After the reception, Alderete and a group of his friends enjoyed steak dinners at Eagle's Lodge.
"I give God the glory for allowing me to be home," Alderete said.
Alderete, who was born and raised in Port Lavaca, began his military career in the Texas State Guard. Five years later, he moved into the Texas Army National Guard. He worked his way from tank driver to commander.
When his Cuero National Guard unit was restructured after six years, Alderete opted for the infantry, where he served the remainder of his time.
The Army deployed Alderete once to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and twice to Iraq.
His second deployment to Iraq ended in 2010 when he was wounded.
Alderete was not ready to retire, but his knee and shoulder injuries made him unfit to continue serving.
"It's hard when you've worn a uniform for so long not to wake up and put it on," Alderete said. "It's bittersweet."
Alderete is glad to be home with his wife, Angie Alderete, his daughter, Marya Beard, 27, his son and his grandson.
The Alderetes have been married for 29 years and have a trip to Washington, D.C., and Niagra Falls planned for their 30th wedding anniversary.
Alderete starts a full-time job with Formosa as an instrument technician this month.
In his speech to those who welcomed him home, Alderete expressed his gratitude to God, the church, his family, his friends and the strangers who supported him.
"God has it all in his hands," he said.