Texas Memorial Illumination at San Jacinto makes history honoring fallen soldiers

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Inaugural Texas Memorial Illumination honors fallen soldiers
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21,500 candles glowed at the San Jacinto Battleground. They were illuminated in honor of Texans killed in armed conflicts around the world.

LA PORTE, Texas (KTRK) -- As the sun set in La Porte Saturday, the first Texas Memorial Illumination got underway at the San Jacinto Monument.

The San Jacinto Battleground was set aglow by thousands of candles, in memory of Texans killed in armed conflicts around the world.

ABC13 streamed the event exclusively, where you see Eyewitness News, including Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TV.

A replay of the event is available in the video player above.

The first luminary was lit at 2:45 p.m. by the family of Celestino Cortez on the steps of the monument. Cortez was a Texas soldier who died in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, on the Western Front during World War II.

Inspired by the Antietam National Battlefield's memorial illumination in Maryland, this event marked a first for a Texas battlefield.

The luminaries, which were assembled by a group of volunteers, are made of paper bags filled with sand and a candle.

"It's going to be thought-provoking," said Gina Manlove, who serves as the event coordinator for the San Jacinto Museum and Battlefield Association. "You're going to be reminded by every single luminary that freedom isn't free."

The luminaries, which volunteers assembled in October, are made of paper bags filled with sand and a candle.

"These are not just candles in bags," said Denton Florian, who is one of the event's organizers. "Each one of these luminaries represents a human life - each one is the ultimate sacrifice."

Vickie Schultz, who is the president of Blue Star Mothers of America's Houston chapter, is one of the event's volunteers.

"To be able to honor these Texan heroes is amazing," said Schultz. "We have about 25 Blue Star Mothers and family members who are going to set up the candles on Saturday."

Schultz says they'll be back on Sunday morning to help pick up the luminaries.

Organizers of the Texas Memorial Illumination hope the experience has a lasting impact on those who attend.

"This is an event that has so much symbolism of unity and coming together," said Dion Brugger of the Travis Manion Foundation. "I think this is a tremendous opportunity to participate in a purpose-filled activity."

ABC13 Houston is proud to serve as official media sponsor of the Texas Memorial Illumination.

You can watch the Texas Memorial Illumination at San Jacinto on your favorite streaming devices. Just search "ABC13 Houston."