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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

San Marcos looks back on Veterans Memorial

Meg Boles
Wreaths to commemorate servicemen killed in action are placed at the Hays County Veterans Memorial during the 2024 Memorial Day Ceremony, Monday, May 27, 2024, near downtown San Marcos.

In 1996, Richard Cruz went to a county fair in Dallas, where he spotted a memorial service which impressed him. After returning to San Marcos, he did some research and found the city did not have one; he wanted to change that.

Cruz’s efforts would lead to the creation of the Hays County Veterans Memorial and soon after the ceremony. Since 2003, San Marcos has hosted an annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the memorial on the corner of Hopkins Street and Riverside Drive, with May 27 marking the 21st anniversary. It honors the county’s veterans who were Killed in Action from World War I to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Cruz, a retired infantry rifleman during the Vietnam War, made it his mission to create a memory of the veterans Killed in Action. He found over 100 names in the Texas Commission and separated them from those who died overseas or of natural causes.

In 1997, Cruz’s efforts caught the attention of Kathy Morris, mayor of San Marcos at the time, who gave him the go-ahead. However, it was not a project he could complete overnight.

“I had to go through a process of working out a 501(c), and it can take a little bit of time,” Cruz said. ” [Starting the project]’s gonna take a while.”

In creating the memorial, Cruz also received many questions and concerns from citizens about why he wanted to bring back memories of the wars to San Marcos.

“My response to them was, ‘I’m not trying to bring back the war [and] bad memories,'” Cruz said. “I want the people to remember somebody paid for our freedom, and those things should not be forgotten at all.”

Cruz teamed up with many veterans, such as Toby Tobias, a World War II veteran, and Ponte Moreno, a retired U.S. Army veteran. He also asked Nancy Granato, an assistant professor emerita of interior design at Texas State, and her class in 2000 to design the memorial. The project finished in 2003, and Cruz turned the memorial over to the city of San Marcos to run the remembrance.

The hour-long remembrance remains primarily unchanged since the main goal is to read the names of San Marcos locals Killed in Action. It consists of a few guest speakers, the national anthem, the community placing four decorative wreaths and volunteers reading the veterans’ names. Last year, the remembrance, which celebrated its 20th anniversary, also included information about the history of the memorial.

Christie Murillo, marketing and outreach coordinator of Parks and Recreation, started overseeing the remembrance last year. She attended the remembrance multiple times and sees it as a way to pass along to the next generation the importance of recognizing veterans and their sacrifice.

“The community likes to get together and hear those things and do the camaraderie as well,” Murillo said. “It’s an event where they often have to talk to each other and share authority by checking on each other.”

Murillo said it is usually a veteran who is the keynote speaker. Recommendations come from the community and the Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee, and everyone works together to reach a consensus.

“I will always accept a nomination or request, but a suggestion of somebody who may be established within the community would be a good keynote speaker,” Murillo said. “Maybe they’ve got a good story to tell, or they’re doing a lot for veterans.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Jason White, former Intelligence Officer and Force Reconnaissance Marine and CEO of OPCON Industries. While OPCON Industries provides military training through simulations, he is more locally known for his work with the nonprofit Surplus Americans, which creates resources to support the veteran community.

White moved to San Marcos in late 2019 but discovered the remembrance two years ago. When the city recommended him speak at this year’s remembrance, he wanted his personal and military experiences and history to inspire others. White also hoped to speak about Memorial Day’s original intent as commercialism turned it into a day of sales, celebration and the beginning of summer.

“I would like to remind those who attended that Memorial Day is to remember those who sacrificed either their lives or a portion of their lives in their country so the rest of us can go throughout the day and enjoy our barbecues and go to the river and do what we do today,” said White.

To learn more about the Memorial Day Ceremony, visit https://sanmarcostx.gov/4401/Memorial-Day-Ceremony.

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