MISSION, Texas (KVEO) – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Nurse Honor Guard has commemorated fallen nurses throughout the RGV at a rate of two per month, and at times, two within a week.
The organization is dedicated to honoring nurses and relieving them of their duties after they have passed.
The Nurse Honor Guard is just over a year in existence in the Valley, but chapter founder and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Dalia De Luna, knows this has been a busy year.
“My coworkers and I started this last year, after seeing a video of an Honor Guard in Arizona, I looked for something locally I could volunteer for but there was nothing here,” said De Luna.
The requests for the Honor Guard’s presence at funerals began just as the organization was starting up and completing the process of becoming a nonprofit.
At the time, De Luna did not imagine the services would see an increase in demand due to a pandemic. She says most of the nurses have succumbed to COVID-19.
“Before COVID, we didn’t have a lot of calls actually. There was a lot of interest and continues to be a lot of interest in volunteering with our group. With the pandemic, however, sometimes it’s two funerals in a week, sometimes it’s two a month. We are definitely busier now than we ever have been,” said De Luna.
A rising number of cases in the Valley correlates with a busy week for the Honor Guard.
Last Friday, De Luna and five nurses held a ceremony at the funeral of a 27-year-old fallen ER nurse, Brittany Palomo in Raymondville.
Today, De Luna and a volunteer LVN, Cynthia Martinez, were in Mission at the funeral of 43-year-old Elva Karina Garibay. Garibay’s sister-in-law and LVN, Alessa Urquiza, stepped in to participate in the ceremony.
Garibay worked for 21 years as a licensed vocational nurse and was most recently working around children. It is believed that Garibay was exposed to COVID-19 through one of her patient’s parent.
Garibay is survived by her mother, five siblings and common-law husband, Adan Alonzo.
Alonzo also tested positive for COVID-19 and was able to recover.
“I was lost in the world, and she changed me in a positive manner, and I miss her dearly,” said Alonzo.
Alonzo says Garibay suffered from diabetes and other health issues, but they were planning on purchasing a home and adopting a child in the future.
The ceremony began before Garibay’s ashes were placed in a cremation monument located on the Valley Memorial Gardens cemetery in Mission.
“Nursing is a calling, it’s a way of life. Nursing is a service profession that can’t be lived in isolation,” began De Luna, as she stood in front of Garibay’s family.
In the ceremony speech, she acknowledged the difficulty of the job, and a nurses’ dedication to being present when and where they are needed the most.
“Nurse Elva, report to shift,” said De Luna as she rang a bell between each call.
“Nurse Elva, report to your shift… Nurse Elva, please report to your shift… Nurse Elva Garibay, we thank you for your service, for being our colleague, and we now release you of your nursing duties,” concluded De Luna.
Matinez proceeded to snuff the candle and presented it to Garibay’s mother. Urquiza placed a white rose next to Garibay’s urn.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to serve our community. Giving them a moment of our time to honor them and the service that they gave to the community,” said Matinez.
“I’m proud of it. I’m also humbled. Because I know a lot of our nurses have spent many, many years not having been recognized,” said De Luna.
The RGV Nurse Honors Guard’s services are free of charge. For more information visit their Facebook page or call 956-873-1117.