iluna@valleytowncrier.com

MISSION - Electronic race timing and event management company, Endurance Splits will host its third annual ‘Salute The Troops 5K’ at Mission’s Pepsi Park Sports Complex, Saturday, Nov. 9. The 5K stemmed from customer, Iris Garza, a Robert Vela HS cross-country and track coach who noticed many parades honoring the heroes of our nation, but no race.

“I was trying to do a fundraiser for our cross-country team and I wanted it to be in the cooler part of November choosing the second weekend, but looking at the calendar I said ‘Oh my gosh its veterans weekend!’” Garza realized. “So I knew nobody was going to buy a Robert Vela HS medal where probably not everyone would want to run for our school,” she said.

From her realization, Garza decided to make the 5K a tribute to veterans naming it, ‘Salute The Troops’ which has gained several participants over the years.

Saturday’s race has 40 veterans registered and several community members racing at a total of 250 participants.

Garza often visits her father - a veteran himself, at McAllen’s Alfredo Gonzalez Texas State Veterans Home.

“You see them in their canes, walkers and wheelchairs still loyal by wearing their caps of World War II or whichever entity they served in and the more I go, I appreciate them,” she said.

Garza’s patriotic wave of enjoyment she gets from visiting the veterans nursing home is what motivates her to do a little extra every year to represent the red, white and blue.

“This year’s message of thank you to the veterans is ‘Freedom’” she adds. “Freedom isn’t free and our veterans paid the price for it, that’s why the eagle is holding the flag,” she said explaining the finishers medal.

And with a great number of participants, owner and hostess, Hector Gandara of Endurance Splits was on board with Garza.

“This race was conjoined with one of our clients, Iris Garza and we’ve done events with her in the past but the whole purpose of ‘Salute The Troops’ is to recognize and honor the veterans,” Gandara said.

A special recognition ceremony for the veterans will take place before the race presenting them with a special gift along with the symbolic medal representing all they do.

“We’d like to thank our veterans for everything they’ve done and I think our medal says it all - it should be a very presentable piece,” he added.

Participants will receive a t-shirt and a finisher medal upon the race’s completion and a portion of all registration proceeds will be donated to local veteran organizations. The recognition ceremony begins at 7:30 a.m. followed by the race at 8 a.m.

For more information visit the following links:

https://endurancesplits.webconnex.com/3rdAnnualSalutetheTroops5k?fbclid=IwAR3Y1hpICMfpC7rtv9e99Q743Z9vUQaX9jFmaJXiYS51YejsRexKgfUC90Y or https://www.facebook.com/events/899007207138233/