The Gilroy Center for the Arts will also have a veterans exhibit open through Nov. 30

Photo courtesy Veterans Hall

By Gabe Perez

Gabe Perez

This Veterans Day comes at a time of global unrest, making it especially important we recognize the sacrifices of our veterans and service members. In South Valley, America’s heroes will be recognized the entire month of November.

The centerpiece event is the ceremony and parade Saturday, Nov. 11. The ceremony starts at 11:11 a.m. in front of the new “Home of the Brave” mural, recently painted by Sheryl Cathers, at the Gilroy Veterans Hall hosted by the American Legion Post 217.

The parade follows at 1 p.m. with “Our True Heroes” as this year’s theme. The parade will start at Seventh and Monterey streets and travel north to Fourth and Monterey streets.

As a Vietnam veteran and proud member of the VFW Post 6309, I am especially honored this year’s parade grand marshal is Edward Sanchez, a 90 year-old Korean War veteran whose admirable service did not end when he left the United States Air Force. He began his civilian career of service working as a bailiff, and then as a community relations officer for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. He later used his compassion to help qualified low-income tenants lease homes through the Santa Clara County Housing Authority.

But for many Gilroyans, his label as a “true hero” most likely comes from his role as founder of the Gilroy Citizenship Education Project, where he worked as an educator, mentor, motivator and cheerleader for the community’s immigrants. He helped so many of Gilroy’s immigrants become U.S. citizens, including his own mother who earned her citizenship at 95 years old. Sanchez has done everything from the heart, not for the glory. His compassion and quiet dedication represent the best of the American spirit. It’s only fitting Sanchez will lead all of the other true heroes in this year’s parade, which is hosted by the South Santa Clara Valley Memorial District and the Gilroy Veterans Hall. The parade entry fee is free, thanks to many generous donors.

Also on Nov. 11, the Gilroy Veterans Hall will host a Veterans Day Holiday Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with 20 local vendors. Gilroy’s Coast Range CrossFit is putting on the Gilroy Unity Games starting at 8 a.m., which is a workout competition honoring veterans.

Local service organizations will be honoring local veterans, too. The Gilroy Rotary will host a noon luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The Gilroy Elks Lodge #1567 has a dinner planned at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov 15. Both events will be at the Elks Lodge on Hecker Pass Highway.

There will also be other activities throughout the month to celebrate and honor veterans. Artistic talents of veterans will be on display at the 6th Street Studios and Art through Nov. 30. The Gilroy Center for the Arts will also have a veterans exhibit open through Nov. 30, with a special reception at 2 p.m. Nov. 5 featuring guest speaker VFW Commander Raul Torrez.

Honoring our veterans is much more than parades and holidays. It is about ensuring they receive the support, care, and recognition they have earned when their service is over. It is about each of us supporting organizations that provide resources to veterans in need. Most importantly, honoring veterans means working to create a country that is worthy of their sacrifices — one that upholds the democratic ideals they fought to defend.

This month and every month, I encourage everyone to take time to thank a veteran for their service. Listen to their stories. Learn about the incredible things they’ve experienced in defending this nation. And ask yourself: what can I do to honor their sacrifice? Simple acts of gratitude and civic participation are powerful ways we can all give back to those who have given so much for us.

Gabe Perez is a Vietnam veteran and the board president of the South Santa Clara Valley Memorial District, which owns and operates the Gilroy Veterans Hall. He has also served his community as a member of the VFW Post 6309.