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Master Sergeant Ricardo Valadez

Below is a Rifle salute & sound of Taps video recorded at a military funeral. Filmed May 2015 at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX.

Five years ago today, my Latino grandfather Ricardo Valadez died at home in San Antonio, Texas. To his grandkids, he was Papa.

Papa was a Master Sergeant in the US Army for 25 years and made cartographical maps by hand. He was also a boxer in Golden Gloves when you had to compete just to get enrolled. Papa was a tough man, and I remember how safe he made me feel. As a little girl, he’d often get down on one knee to talk to me just so we would be at eye level, and I didn’t have to look up. All of my elders were military men—Army, Air Force, Green Berets, etc. They all scared me a little bit as a kid. But Papa always made me feel secure, and I’ll never forget that. Even when he was angry about life, he was kind towards me. But I knew when to steer clear. jaja!

I wrote a story about him called “Abuelo” in college at SCAD. Papa loved it! Before his death, I’d seen him a few days before in Orlando, Florida, at my cousin’s quinceañera. On the day of the party, he and I were at the house watching TV, just us, and he told me he was ready to die, but he was scared who would protect everybody. It was a long conversation I’ll never forget. It was the first and last time I ever saw Papa cry. It was also the last boxing match we’d ever watch together: the Mayweather and Pacquiao fight. Papa took a nap just to wake up at midnight.

Months after he transcended, my Nana told me he’d awoke before her that morning, as usual, to let her sleep in a bit, and when he didn’t come back to check on her. Nana went to look for him and found him outside in the backyard, dead, but the look on his face was complete peace. Today, a gigantor bouquet of flowers with a blue vase arrived at mi Abuelita’s home to send some love and comfort on a day I know she’ll be missing her husband of 64 years. 🌺

When I filmed the rifle, three-volley salute & sound of Taps at Fort Sam Houston Army Base—it was utterly impulsive, and I got some strange looks from some. But I didn’t care and I kept my hand on my heart, filming with my left hand, which is why I do not zoom in. Plus, this was five years ago, and I wish I’d had my iPhone now to get a more precise focus. Nonetheless, my Spanish grandmother LOVED that I filmed this and cherished it. We all grieved his death, still do, but it’s in our culture, our blood, to celebrate his life, too. My grandfather was Mexican, and part of the culture is Día de los Muertos and I bought him and Zeke a Calavera (skull) mural at The Mexic-Arte Museum that year in honor of his Life… Zeke was my/our family black lab that lived till 18 years of age, a gift given to me by Papa as I’d be looking for a dog for months.

Te extraño Papa!

Soon, I will write about the year 2015 and the events that lead up to one of the most challenging years I can remember.

Published by Nicolette Mallow

‡ Nicolette Mallow is an Artist: writer, dancer, vocalist, thespian, model, and (amateur) photographer. Writing is Mallow’s strongest artistic skill. Internationally published in the United States and Europe, Nicolette has obtained 110+ publications thus far. Mallow has interviewed an extensive list of talent and collaborated with companies and PR teams from Texas Monthly, National Geographic, Prevention Magazine, HBO Films, The Hollywood Reporter, SXSW, The David Lynch Foundation, Cine Las Americas, The University of Texas at Austin and more. Presently her portfolio entails 12 national awards or scholarships, including both individual and group projects. Working with Press and Publicity teams from companies like Sunshine Sachs, Fons PR, Frank PR, and CW3PR — Mallow can liaise with publicists, entrepreneurs, and their brands. Since 2005, for 17 years, Nicolette Mallow has covered numerous press, corporate and red carpet events as a (dyslexic) writer. Mallow has interviewed talent far beyond her years, including Jimmy Chin, Greta Gerwig, Bob Roth, Dr. Travis Stork, Joan Lunden, Larysa DiDio, Lauren Handel Zander, James White, Jay Roach, Naomi Whittel and Roc Chen. Once, she was a public speaker for a national business conference. Her career is diverse and transcends a vast array of industries, but the focus is always on the arts. Nicolette Mallow does enjoy all forms of writing, but her favorite writing genres to create entail editorial, arts & entertainment, literary journalism, travel, magical realism, nonfiction, technical and promotional publicity. Over time Nicolette has attained Press Credentials to events like Texas Film Awards (hosted by Austin Film Society), The Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin Film Festival, Euphoria Music Festival, and The Blanton Museum of Art. She also wrote for Savannah Magazine, a radio station operated by EMMIS Communications, District newspaper, and the Thinkery (formerly Austin Children’s Museum). In her spare time, Nicolette creates a magical realism novel and turns her nonfiction memoirs into short story novellas. Obtaining two degrees from the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), she has a Master of Arts degree in Arts Administration (a graduate degree now recognized as Creative Business Leadership) and a B.F.A. in Writing. Born and raised in Texas and NYC—Nicolette Mallow is also a world traveler that lives for art and loves to learn. “L’art Pour L’art.”

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