Spirits were high Saturday afternoon, defying the light rain shower, as a convoy of Brownsville Police Department vehicles, a U.S. Army humvee and well wishers honked their horns while driving past WWII veteran and Bronze Star recipient Ramón Saldaña’s home on Villanova Avenue to wish him well on his 100th birthday.
Saldaña, who was born in 1921, served in the U.S. Army’s 927th Field Artillery Batallion as a Private 1st Class stationed in Germany and France and took part in the D-Day Invasion at Normandy.
“He got off the boat and he fought there. He made it,” said his son George.
In honor of his service and to commemorate reaching 100 years old, his family had planned to hold a large party this year to celebrate, however COVID-19 required the family to adapt. So gathered in the front yard with neighbors watching from their lawns, the family held an outdoor celebration in their patriarch’s driveway to shower him with their love and appreciation.
Saldaña’s neighbor of 58 years, Arnold Garcia even pitched in to help organize the drive by and a few ceremonies of recognition.
“Reaching a 100 years old is an accomplishment in and of itself and then him being a veteran with two sons who are also veterans, I felt he was deserving,” said Garcia.
To organize the drive by and flag presentation ceremony he went to the local U.S. Army recruiters, Hannah Early College High School AJROTC, San Benito High School NJROTC, Brownsville Police Department, Brownsville Traffic Wardens, the Brownsville Fire Department and passed out fliers to every house for four streets to put the word out.
The Hanna Early College High School AJROTC Cadet Battalion Commander Jose Castelan, Cadet 1st Lt. Raul Torres and Cadet 1st Lt. Abigail Casas performed the flag presentation ceremony. Cadet Master Chief Nicholas Wilson of San Benito High School NJROTC performed an armed solo show with a rifle to present his well wishes for Saldaña’s birthday and appreciation for his military service.
His granddaughter Erika Saldaña even made the drive from San Antonio to attend the party.
“We are very, very proud of our heritage. We are very proud that we come from a military family and that my grandfather served in WWII as one of the few from one of the greatest generation that ever lived,” she said.
With his family around him, Saldaña celebrated and posed for photos with each well wisher and took in the festivities. At one point as the Mariachi Margaritas crooned “El Rey,” Saldaña took a turn on the dance floor, slowly swaying together with Adelina, his wife of 74 years.
“He feels very happy turning 100 and being able to celebrate it with all of his family, especially with his sons. Mostly he feels very proud of his heritage and that he is happy to be able to make it this far to celebrate with his family,” said granddaughter Erika.