HARLINGEN — “Thank you for your service, sir.”
Those were the words heard many times by U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran Leland Kerr.
The longtime Harlingen resident sat in the front row of the review stand at yesterday morning’s Marine Military Academy Veterans Day Parade as person after person walked up to shake his hand and utter those important words.
The MMA area is one Kerr knows well. He was stationed at the Harlingen Air Force base during World War II. After he was discharged from the Air Corps, he and his wife moved back to the area in 1950 to raise a family.
He’s been here ever since.
But, it was the first time in years he had attended the MMA event on the grounds he knows so well.
“I needed to come here and see people to help make me feel better,” Kerr said after the ceremony which ended with a pass in review of the MMA cadets in front of the veterans.
“There are veterans here who did a lot, more than I did,” he said. “I recognize I was a very small portion of the service from 1943 to 1945, but I did what they told me.”
Minutes earlier, guest reviewing officer for the event, Manuel Padilla Jr., the Chief of the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, talked about men like Kerr and his fellow veterans who have served “selflessly around the world.”
He also talked about those currently serving and who volunteered to serve.
“Less than one percent of the American population chooses to stand and raise their right hand and to write that proverbial check to the people of the United States,” Padilla said. “That check is redeemable to sacrificing their own life.”
He emphasized the word volunteer, which means they are not compelled, not threatened and not coerced to join.
“They stand and swear that oath freely without any mental reservation knowing full well, that promise may cost them their lives,” Padilla said. “Freedom is not free. They serve a cause far greater than themselves.”
Kerr, who worked for the post office in Harlingen for 29 years, said he just lives one day at a time and has some suggestions for younger folks.
“Whatever happens, don’t worry about tomorrow,” he said.