Veterans Day Celebration
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
For nine years, Emily Rodriguez-Gonzales has worked as an instructor in the Nurse Assistant Program at Texas State Technical College.
But never has she felt more pride and joy than Tuesday morning when she sat in the Student Quad listening to her daughter give the keynote speech at the Veteran's Day Celebration hosted by TSTC.
Stevie Mendoza, a 2006 graduate of San Benito High School, is the only child of Rodriguez-Gonzales and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2009. She served in Afghanistan from Aug. 2011-Aug. 2012 as a combat photographer and is now enrolled at TSTC, where she hopes to complete her basics before transferring on to a four-year university and pursue a degree in communications.
"I was overwhelmed with pride and joy," Rodriguez-Gonzales said. "She's my only child and I prayed that God would protect her out there. And by the grace of God, she came back to me. Now we're all proud."
Mendoza represents the 199 students and 23 employees that are veterans at TSTC.
"I have nothing but appreciation to see so many people supporting veterans here today," Mendoza said. "I have immense respect for those in uniform but it wasn't until I found myself 7,000 miles away from home brushing dirt off my face and stepping my boots on the ground in Afghanistan that it sunk in on just how important our mission was."
The Veterans Day Celebration has become a tradition at TSTC for the past three decades and is something all veterans at the college look forward to every year.
Veterans Center Director Steve Guevara, who's been with the college the past nine years, said it's an honor to be a part of the event.
"We do this as a way to bring attention and thank our veterans," said Guevara, a veteran himself. "Stevie gave a great speech today and we're proud of all our veterans."
United States Air Force Technical Sergeant Dalia Cortez was also a guest speaker and the American Legion 15th District Drill Team paid tribute to Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.
The Harlingen South Air Force Junior ROTC was charged with the presentation of colors and Florencio Villarreal sang the National Anthem and God Bless the USA.
Among the services provided to military students at TSTC is the availability of the aforementioned Veterans Center, which opened last summer.
The Veterans Center serves as a centralized point of contact to assist prospective and current veterans, veterans' dependents and active duty military students through college resources to ensure a successful college experience.
The Veterans Center also serves as the meeting point for the Veterans Student Alliance (VSA) Club, which is open to all students.
Mendoza is a member of the VSA Club and said the group helped her transition back to civilian life.
"I see the integrity that has been instilled in us since day one at boot camp," Mendoza said. "I was welcomed with open arms and immediately felt I belonged."