Highlighting Vets’ Struggles and Celebrating Their Service: The Story Behind the Montrose Bridge Marine
This past March, Marine veteran Mark Perez made the local news by protesting in full dress uniform on the “Be Someone” bridge that crosses I-45 near downtown. Standing at salute until forced to move because of an oncoming train, Perez live-streamed his experience on social media before HPD arrived. He was brought to the VA hospital for a psychological evaluation, and released without a citation.
Perez told local media that his bridge salute was designed to gain public attention for PTSD, and the struggles many veterans face when returning to civilian life. As a veteran himself, he explained on his broadcasted video, he tried to gain a sense of normalcy – going to school, getting a job, and even becoming a father – but that the struggle was still there, as it is for thousands of other veterans returning to the United States.
Perez’s protests to give veterans a voice didn’t end with one single bridge stunt; throughout the summer he was spotted on the Montrose bridges, saluting during Monday morning traffic as well as on Friday evenings, while cars crawl onwards down below on highway 59. At one point he refused food and drink while standing at salute, and Houstonians expressed their concerns. He’s also started an online campaign to fundraise for a program he says he’d like to develop and in order to better help veterans re-acclimate to society. Because PTSD personally affects Perez, he feels he has a first-hand understanding of what veterans need in terms of training.
According to the City of Houston, the Bayou City is the home to the second-largest amount of volunteer military in the United States. Of the over 300,000 veterans living in Houston, the Veterans Affairs Office reports that approximately 22,000 have returned since 9/11. This Saturday, November 11, the City Hall will be the site for an AARP-sponsored veterans career fair for veterans, and a ceremony thanking those who have sacrificed for our nation with a special ceremony.
Also on Saturday is the 9/11 Heroes Run, which had to be rescheduled from its original date on the heels of Hurricane Harvey. This run is a multi-city event hosted by the Travis Manion Foundation. The 9/11 Heroes run and other fundraising programs directed by the Travis Manion Foundation help implement empowerment programs for veterans who are undergoing a transition from active duty to civilian life. Also a facet of the Travis Manion Foundation is a community ambassador program called Character Does Matter, which allows veterans to engage with youth as mentors. It’s not too late to sign up to participate in the run and honor those who have fallen and served. For dates and locations of these Veterans Day events, click here.
Story by Taylor Byrne Dodge