Army South deputy commander honors Veterans at UT Brownsville
November 14, 2012
BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- The Army South deputy commanding general traveled to his alma mater here Nov. 8 to take part in a Veterans Day ceremony and mentor future Army officers in the ROTC program.
Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the Army South deputy commander, was the keynote speaker during the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) Veteran's Day ceremony that took place on the very spot where Salinas received his Master's Degree in 1994.
"I feel at home here," said Salinas. "Graduating many years ago with my Master's of Education, walking across this very lawn, I didn't realize what tomorrow would bring and here I am back home."
Prior to the ceremony, Salinas mingled through the growing crowd to visit with old friends and make some new ones until everyone settled into their seats.
Standing on a small stage under a blue sky and a huge American flag flying atop an extended fire truck ladder, Salinas spoke to the audience about the significance of the ceremony.
"We are here today to celebrate the strength, courage and dedication of our Veterans who not only wield the hammer of conflict but also shape the world for lasting peace," said Salinas. "I want us to not only remember their gallantry on the battlefield, but look at the lasting legacy of strength and service they brought with them when they returned home."
During the ceremony, Salinas introduced to the crowd a special guest: Army Sgt. (Retired) Carlos Garza, Salinas' driver during a tour in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2006 and a current resident of Brownsville.
"Whenever I'm here, Carlos and I find time to get together, even if it's only for a couple of hours to enjoy each other's company," said Salinas. "After serving for so many years, Soldiers no longer see only red, white and blue on our flag; we see names and faces of people and places. It's such an honor to share this special day here with Carlos and our other fellow Veterans."
Garza said it wasn't out of the ordinary for Salinas to personally call him and invite him to the ceremony.
"He always takes the time to personally interact with Soldiers in order to ensure they are taken care of," said Garza. "I hadn't put on my dress uniform in a while and it was an honor to put it on today and come here with Brigadier General Salinas. He's a leader who makes a difference in my life."
After the ceremony, Salinas visited the ROTC headquarters where he had lunch with the cadets and spoke to them about his life in the military.
"Twenty-eight years ago when I was standing in your shoes, I would have never thought that I would be here today in my life," Salinas said to the cadets. "I grew up picking watermelons and harvesting peanuts yet this beautiful nation of ours has given me an opportunity to become a one-star general. Don't think for one minute that you can't make it."
Salinas said his interaction with the cadets was special to him since the ROTC program at UTB is geographically significant.
"The ROTC program here at UTB is only five years old," said Salinas. "Before this program started here, the closest ROTC programs were in Edinburg, Texas or Texas A&M at Kingsville.
The Rio Grande Valley is a very patriotic community and the program here allows the community to have a venue to produce young officers for our great nation."
UTB administrators felt Salinas was the perfect choice to visit on a day designated to honor American Veterans.
"Brigadier General Salinas fit in perfectly here," said David Rivera, the UTB program director for Veterans Upward Bound Staff. "He's a graduate of UTB, he's Hispanic and he can relate to the community here. Our cadets were able to see for themselves that if they're committed to the military they can find themselves in his position someday."
According to Salinas, the nostalgic visit was a special one.
"It brings a great sense of pride to my heart to know that as I come toward the end of my military career the future is bright in the hands of these young men and women," said Salinas. "I thoroughly enjoyed it."