More than 100 people gathered Sept. 9 to honor Jesus Galvan, an employee at The University of Texas-Pan American for his current military service in Iraq.
UT Pan American President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas attended Galvan's celebration at the UTPA Visitors Center and led the crowd in singing "Las Mañanitas" for his birthday.
Galvan, who has been employed at UTPA since May 2000, was home on leave and fellow employees wanted to honor him while he was in the Rio Grande Valley.
He asked the crowd to think about those who have passed away, particularly his friend U.S. Army National Guardsman Spc. Tomas Garces, a Weslaco native who was recently killed in Iraq.
"I consider myself lucky," Galvan said. "While I'm here my unit is being attacked."
Galvan, a member of the National Guard 1836 Transportation Company out of Weslaco, was deployed in December 2003 to Iraq to transport equipment throughout the combat zone.
Director of Human Resources Frank Wagner attended the ceremony representing Vice President for Business Affairs James Langabeer who could not attend. "People like Jesse are essential to the nation," said Wagner, a retired army officer. "I have not met any soldier who has come back from deployment, who does not stand taller and who is not proud of what they've done."
Galvan received UTPA T-shirts, key chains, a $225 cashiers check, hats and gift baskets from various University departments. His co-workers and supervisor from custodial services also gave him a birthday present. One co-worker presented Galvan with letters students in her Continuing Christian Development (CCD) classes wrote for him to take back to the soldiers.
"This University is pulling its weight to help the country fight for freedom and doing something that it is known for, which is providing opportunities," Fechner said. "There are opportunities in Afghanistan and Iraq to be made for education, career and civil rights because of people like Jesse and former graduates who are doing their part to protect the country and sustain opportunities for other people."
Custodial Service Manager Martha Jauregui, Galvan's supervisor, kept in contact with him over the last several months. When she heard of his homecoming, she initiated the celebration for him. Jauregui fought back tears as she told him to be safe, be careful and return to his family and the University.
"I want to thank Jessie for defending our country," Jauregui said. "You're not only defending your family, but you're defending a lot of families in the United States, including mine."
Galvan said it was good to be home to see his family and friends. When asked what he missed most about UTPA, Galvan replied "the people."