Texas Guard veteran continues service in hometown

Story by: Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

Posted: February 21, 2016

Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington Dignitaries from Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas gathered on the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge for the International Bridge Ceremony Feb. 20, 2016. The ceremony celebrates the bond between the United States and Mexico. The staple of the ceremony, the "abrazo" or embrace, is led by two children representing Mexico and two children representing the United States, affectionately know as the "abrazo children". Dignitaries including religious, political, and military officials follow suit by embracing and exchanging flags. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)
Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington
Dignitaries from Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas gathered on the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge for the International Bridge Ceremony Feb. 20, 2016. The ceremony celebrates the bond between the United States and Mexico. The staple of the ceremony, the "abrazo" or embrace, is led by two children representing Mexico and two children representing the United States, affectionately know as the "abrazo children". Dignitaries including religious, political, and military officials follow suit by embracing and exchanging flags. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

LAREDO, Texas – Former Texas National Guardsman, Mario Alvarado, Sr., has a long history of service for not only his country and the state of Texas, but also for his hometown of Laredo as a sound technician. 

Alvarado served in the Texas Army National Guard for 13 years. He jokes that he has the hearing to prove it, leaning in when someone speaks to him. His service started when he was a teenager.

"I joined the Army when I was 16-years-old. My mom had to sign off so I could get into the Army," he said.

His family has continued this tradition of service. He proudly shows off the pins on his hat that depict the seals from each branch of service as he lists off all the family's connections with the military.

"I used to be with the 36th Infantry Division and the 49th Armored Division. My son was in the Navy for 6 years," Alvarado says "Most of my family has been in the military. I have a grandson with the Marine Corps."

Alvarado's family now serves their community as sound technicians for some of the city's most important events.The family business, Sounds International, provides sound support for key events during Laredo's annual George Washington Birthday Celebration. This year marks the 119th year the city has hosted the world's largest birthday celebration for the nation's first president. For the last 70 years, the now monthlong event has included the International Bridge Ceremony between representatives of the sister cities Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. 

"The ceremony that occurs on this spot every year is the symbolic and real nature of our relationship, our friendship, and our respect for each other," said Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security and keynote speaker for the event.

The bridge ceremony takes place on the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge, connecting the countries in friendship and commerce. Dignitaries including political, military, and religious officials from both communities gathered on the bridge Feb. 20, 2016, to exchange "Abrazos," or embraces. Participants included actors and children dressed in colonial-era garb representing the two countries. The embraces symbolize the solidarity and camaraderie between the Unites States and Mexico.

Alvarado has provided the sound for the bridge ceremony for over 30 years. Not only has he had the opportunity to witness the abrazos for several decades, he also experiences the shared culture and friendship between the two cities everyday. 

"We make a lot of business with Mexico. We have a good relationship with Nuevo Laredo," said Alvarado. "We are like a family here."

After all the embraces are exchanged, Alvarado and his daughter-in-law scurry to get all their equipment packed up for the next festivity. They also provide the sound for the Anheuser-Busch Washington's Birthday Parade, the last event of the celebration. He looks forward to supporting the commemoration every year and witnessing the relationship between the two communities strengthen with each abrazo. 

"It's nice to be here, nice to work with the people here," Alvarado says. "It's not only to have the celebration, but to keep us together, one side to another."