MISSION – Victoria Palacios along with her fellow cadets of the McAllen High School junior reserve officers' training corps (JROTC) were given a task on Memorial Day.
When called upon by their leader Master Sergeant Rey Rios, they were to give a white rose to the loved-ones of the fallen soldiers during a special ceremony at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery.
When the the McHi JROTC fell back into line, Palacios stood at parade rest with one hand behind her back and the other clutching a white rose.
December 27, 2011 United States Army Specialist Kurt Kern died in the line of duty. The white rose Palacios held was in his memory.
“He was very loving, had a passion for football and her served his country,” Palacios said of her cousin who played as a defensive tackle for the Memorial Mustangs.
When Palacios listened to the customary roll call at the cemetery there was a sense of pride when Kurt Kern's name was called. The emotions were evident with the tears she shed for him.
Palacios was proud of her cousin and with that pride she will enlist in the United States Army after high school.
At the same Memorial Day ceremony Rios was also tasked of being the featured speaker for those in attendance. His message on this day was to help raise awareness that all soldiers are not men.
Many women have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country and Rios just wanted to make sure they are remembered.
“I think every time you speak of a veteran, I think we generally automatically assume that it is a male,” Rios said.
Rios thinks the nation as a whole does not focus on women serving their country. From time-to-time the Master Sergeant will be asked who is on the front line, man or woman? Rios in turn tells them there is no front line because “it's everywhere.”
A lot of times the nation forgets there are women doing the same duties as their male counterparts.
“That is why I made my focus on that,” Rios said. “I just wanted to remind people that we have women that have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Among those Rios remembered at the ceremony were: Private First Class Ana Laura Esparza Gutierrez, Second Lieutenant Emily J.P. Perez, Specialist Isela Rubalcava and Private First Class Adriana Alvarez. All four women were killed defending the United States.
Rios admits he never met these women in person but he cannot help but imagine what they looked like in uniform.
This Memorial Day Rios said remember the sister, the aunt, the niece, the girlfriend and the mother who made that ultimate sacrifice.
“These warriors are a big part of what makes our country great,” he said. “And [what] makes Old Glory fly so beautiful.”