Veterans Day Ceremony hitting the big leagues

HARLINGEN — Just a few years ago, the Veterans Day ceremony took place around the flagpole.

“It was about 15 minutes of putting up the flags, singing the National Anthem, singing thank you to the veterans that were sitting there in the sun,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Juan Gonzales, JROTC instructor at Harlingen High School.

The retired Army veteran of 20 years knew Veterans Day deserved more than just a perfunctory observance. The veterans who attended deserved something with greater depth, a more diverse activity revealing the many aspects of military service. Those aspects included the decision to enter the service, the burden on families when service members are deployed, and the sorrow of loss in war.

“We did it in the cafeteria,” Gonzales said. “The first year it was a blast. After that it was in the gym and we started bringing everybody in. Now it’s going to be at the Performing Arts Center.”

That’s right. For the first time in its history, the Harlingen High School JROTC will present a Veterans Day ceremony on such a grand scale it will be performed at the PAC at 1 p.m. Nov. 11.

About 50 military veterans will be honored.

“There are going to be the skits,” he said. “It’s going to be an old New York setting. We’re probably going to put an old recruiting office sign. I want one of the stores to have that New York setting. That’s where we can bring out a recruiter and then some kid walking by and then he starts talking to him right there.”

The recruiter talks to the young man about joining up and then songs come after that, Gonzales said.

“We would like to have it where it’s going to be during Christmas and it’s snowing onstage,” he continued. “The guy’s coming with his bag over his shoulder, walking, and then the kids are there or some adults are there and they’re saying, ‘Hey, where are you coming from?’”

The young soldier tells them he just left the military and talks about places he went and some things he did. Gonzales said he also wants to address the struggles of PTSD, with the soldier talking about what he went through.

“We’ll have songs to that, too,” he said. “The orchestra’s going to be there, the band, the speech, drama and debate team will do their skits. And we’ll have the ROTC cadets. It’s run by the JROTC.”

If You Go

WHAT: Harlingen High School JROTC Veterans Day Ceremony

WHEN: Monday, 1 p.m.

WHERE: HCISD Performing Arts Center

3217 Wilson Road, Harlingen

ADMISSION: Free to the public