Local veterans also helped distribute plates. As they gave others their plates, the veterans saluted. (Monitor photo)

MISSION — Underneath a blue tent providing shade from the sunny weather outside the Mission Event Center, Mayor Armando O’Caña stood waving at vehicles slowly driving by.

Some vehicles were decorated with small balloons and American flags, others had posters designed by students from the city’s school district — everything in the patriotic colors of red, white and blue.

Flowing high in the air: a massive American flag.

“Thank you,” someone in their car driving by shouted at the mayor.

“Thank you for your service,” O’Caña cheerfully responded back.

The community came together on Saturday morning for the city of Mission’s Veterans Appreciation BBQ, an event honoring and celebrating veterans.

It was not by design but perhaps a fitting coincidence that on the same day, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were elected to the White House — culminating a long wait for election results in one of America’s most recognizable democratic institutions, one which veterans say they fight to protect.

First responders were also present with lights and sirens, some from fire trucks, as the vehicles drove through “Honor Lane” to receive their plate of barbecue.

Prior to the distribution of the plates, the event began with a ribbon cutting ceremony. O’Caña was joined by fellow city officials and the events’ guest, Mission native Ruben Alonzo, a retired lieutenant colonel who served for more than 25 years and who led the ribbon cutting ceremony.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held prior to the food distribution during the City of Mission’s Veterans Appreciation BBQ on Saturday. (Monitor photo)

“On behalf of the citizens of Mission,” O’Caña said during the ceremony. “This is a small token of honor on your behalf for your service and your dedication to America.”

Last year, the city’s event was a parade, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Caña explained they adapted to continue the celebration in the safest way possible: via curbside.

“That’s what we try to do so we could highlight our people,” O’Caña said. “We tell the whole world the United States is also protected by citizens of Mission and that’s why we’re giving them the honor and respect that they need.”

Although they expected to distribute 1,000 plates, city officials said nearly 30 minutes into the food distribution, 500 plates were already given away.

Additionally, near the pick-up spot, very few tables were spread out for veterans who wished to eat at the event.

At one of these tables, Navy veteran Frank Garcia sat with two other veterans. He was already finished with his food, which he mentioned was delicious: a plate of chicken with rice and beans.

City employees pack plates in plastic bags, ready to distribute to veterans through a curbside pickup on Saturday in Mission. (Monitor photo)

“It’s very nice,” Garcia said when asked how it felt to see the community’s response. “Just seeing how many vehicles actually showed up.”

This isn’t Garcia’s first event, either. He’s been involved with various events for veterans in Mission and Edinburg. However, he was impressed with how dedicated and coordinated everyone involved were.

“It’s one of those things, us as veterans, can’t take for granted,” Garcia said. “We know that they’re genuinely doing this from the bottom of their heart.”