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Memorial Day program outshines rain (w/video)

By JR Ortega
May 26, 2014 at 12:26 a.m.
Updated May 27, 2014 at 12:27 a.m.

Raul Alvarado, middle, shares his umbrella to shield  fellow veterans Robert Gaona, left, and Willie Leos, right, from the rain during the Victoria County Veterans Council Memorial Day Program at DeLeon Plaza in Victoria.

Rain can't wash out American spirit.

Huddled beneath the trees of DeLeon Plaza, 30 people stood still, their umbrellas shielding them from heavy rain blanketing Victoria County on Monday morning during the annual Memorial Day program.

Because of the weather, the program - hosted this year by the Victoria County Veterans Council - was shortened to under 20 minutes instead of more than an hour.

Kathy Dunson has not missed the program for the past three years - rain or shine.

Dunson listened as her brother, Richard Garcia, read the names of veterans who died between last Memorial Day and Monday.

Dunson, 67, knows the pain of losing someone close; she lost her first boyfriend in Vietnam.

"Still, after all these years, I get very emotional," she said, her eyes welling up with tears.

Talking about what happened is still too much for Dunson, so instead, she likes to think of the positive.

She focused on the turnout, proud to see a nice-size group weathering the storm to pay tribute.

Dunson does wish, however, that she saw more young people take time to honor area veterans.

"I don't think they realize how important it is," she said. "They died so they could live."

Out from under the trees, a family of three sat on foldable lawn chairs, each with an umbrella of his or her own.

The family, Hector Villarreal, his wife, Rita, and her cousin, Joann Villareal-Olvera, tried to remain dry as they listened closely to Congressman Blake Farenthold's speech.

"It's important that we not forget those who sacrificed, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice," Farenthold said.

Farenthold went on to talk about Veterans Affairs, saying more needs to be done to provide for veterans.

Hector Villarreal agrees.

His brother, Johnny, was killed in Vietnam. Villarreal was 10.

Several of his other brothers also served.

"I can't even explain to you how I felt then," Villarreal said, holding his red, white and blue umbrella.

Villarreal and his wife attend the program every year.

This program was a little special, his wife said, because her and her cousin's uncle, Andy Villareal, died in August.

His name was read aloud.

It's not just about Memorial Day, though; it's about honoring the sacrifice every day.

"They are out there fighting for our freedom, and that's very important to us," she said.

Villareal-Olvera feels the same way.

"For me, it's to honor those who have fallen," she said. "It's very important to keep those honors and those memories alive."



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