A History of Service: Memorials Honor Heroic Legacies

The Veteran’s War Memorial in McAllen, Texas, honors veterans and teaches the history of our military.
The Veteran’s War Memorial in McAllen, Texas, honors veterans and teaches the history of our military.

America’s war memorials tell the story of our country. They are places where we can reflect on those who gave their lives for freedom, not only for Americans but also for people around the world. Many of these places, such as the Veteran’s War Memorial in McAllen, Texas, also serve as outdoor classrooms of American history.

“Schools throughout the Rio Grande Valley are involved in activities here,” says Frank Thomas, a World War II veteran who also served in Korea and Vietnam.

A state the size of Texas has several such sites, but few memorialize as many wars as that in McAllen. “It tells the stories of honor, sacrifice and the courage of the approximately 1.4 million American military men and women killed in all the wars and conflicts of the USA,” Thomas says.

The idea for a memorial began in 1988 with a group of World War II veterans from around the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Every year, the still-expanding war memorial draws thousands of visitors who come to see military weddings and ceremonies like the ones on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Pearl Harbor Day.

There are dozens of statues and markers on the 5-acre property. The city donated the land, which is adjacent to the McAllen Convention Center and Performing Arts Center. To date, more than $3 million has gone into the memorial, including the latest section, which has 18 walls with 36 panels of granite. Area schoolchildren authored American history stories, which will be engraved on these walls.

“These American history stories are destined to stand far into the future, engendering patriotic feelings for our children and their children’s children to better understand Americans’ love of freedom,” Thomas says.

Among the important sites at the Veteran’s War Memorial is the American Spire of Honor, a black granite marker that stands over the property at 105 feet, honoring those who lost their lives in all the conflicts in the history of the United States. Grassy areas surround the spire, along with pathways of colored pavers. Approximately 400 granite panels in the park immortalize moments in American history, and there are bronze statues, soothing landscaping and benches for rest and meditation. The site is well lit and open 24 hours a day, allowing visitors to come at any hour free of charge.

Thomas is one of a dwindling group of World War II veterans still living, and he knows even fewer of his number will be around in the next five years. “However, the stories of the courage, sacrifice and love of freedom will stand for all time for future generations to remember the cost of freedom,” he says.

Man playing trumpet at Veteran's War Memorial in McAllen, Texas.

Veteran looking at Veterans's War Memorial in McAllen, Texas.
If You Go What: Veteran’s War Memorial Where: 3129 Galveston Ave., McAllen When: Open 24 hours, seven days a week Information: www.mcallen.net/veterans or 956-631-2511

Also in Texas


The Duncanville War Memorial stands near the center of town as a memorial for fallen soldiers from the Duncanville area. The 16-foot-high statue with a bald eagle on its crown is located on a shady spot of land along Main Street. The eternal flame is next to it.


The Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays honor to those Texans who served the United States in the South Asian conflict.
Former President George H.W. Bush dedicated the memorial in 1989. Five tablets of Texas granite bear the names of Texans killed or missing in action, including nine Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. A soothing waterfall flows alongside the memorial, which is known simply as “The Wall.” Visitors sometimes leave wreaths, bracelets, flowers, flags and other sentimental items next to the tablet in honor of a loved one.


The Texas Panhandle War Memorial honors the men and women who served in wars from the Spanish-American War through the war in Iraq. Exhibits at the center include a piece of the USS Arizona, and a museum houses military artifacts. Upcoming events include a Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.


San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial is in the Veterans Memorial Plaza. A dedication to those who served in Vietnam, it features a memorial with a radio operator comforting a wounded comrade while anxiously searching the sky for a medevac helicopter. The bronze sculpture stands about 10 feet tall at its highest point and is 23 feet long and 12 feet wide. With a weight of more than 10 tons, it is the largest sculpture of its kind in the country. The memorial is located in front of Municipal Auditorium. A monument to Korean War veterans stands at the opposite end of the plaza.