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U.S. Representative from Dallas Sam Johnson, who had been a POW for 7 years there. (There were 3 other former POWs attending, also) He said to the veterans, “Thanks for putting aside your own anguish, trauma, and ___________ [I missed it; fill in the blank with your pick of troubles] to help welcome those returning from Desert Storm and Iraq and Afghanistan.” And he spoke of Mike Christian, who used a strip of bamboo to make an American flag, and sewed it inside his shirt. The North Vietnamese captors found it and beat and tortured him. Two days later he was returned to his cell, and he started a new flag. It reminded him of freedom and home. Not until you’re stripped of your freedom, the love of your family, etc. that you realize you’re only free because of the brave. Powerful stories help future generations. Lt. Gov David Dewhurst:  “The expression, ‘Thank you for your service!’  is so common now it sounds almost cliché…but you would have loved to have heard it,”   to which someone in the audience shouted, “Amen!” The loss of the 3417 is still felt (people clapped) but this is not a memorial for those who’ve died but a monument for future generations of those who left the greatest state and the greatest nation to help those they’d never met. For the love of freedom you defined what it is to be an American and a Texan. Our lives last a short time but what ya’ll have done lasts forever. Now the legacy of a lost generation is conserved in holy ground, and [we have] the memories of the brave who inspire us to be better. The audience warmly applauded one of the people who was introduced to essentially lift the veil from the monument: Texan Joe Galloway. He was a Combat Correspondent and coauthored the bestseller We Were Soldiers Once and Young. In 1998 the Army awarded him a Bronze Star with a V for valor for rescuing a badly wounded soldier under heavy fire in the Ia Drang Valley on 15 November 1965. His is the only such medal of valor awarded to a civilian by the Army during the Vietnam War. Pretty nifty, and sure glad I recently watched that movie. Later he spoke: “Yours wasn’t a war people built a monument for… until one man walked these grounds and said, ‘we ought to have one,’ and he did it. It took 9 years, almost as long as the war, but it’s right and dignified and worthy of you. We who were young once, we can’t thank this man enough, cuz here we are at last looking at our magnificent monument.” State Senator Juan Hinojosa, a USMC Vietnam Veteran, said words like ‘let this monument heal our scars and bring closure…. Evil people and evil countries will continue to try to stop our country….. Welcome Home Vietnam warriors. ‘ State Rep Wayne Smith (served in Vietnam 1969 to 1970)  told how things (Or he?) had changed when he returned from the war, and he went about his business because it was just never discussed. In 2002 when he ran for office, his advisors told him to talk about his Vietnam service. He didn’t think that would matter, but he went ahead and did so at a Candidates Forum and received a standing ovation; he broke down [and cried? At the recognition and appreciation so long withheld]. His letter to fellow Texans in the fancy glossy Dedication Program states, “You will recall that our soldiers in Vietnam were as gallant and their task as dangerous and challenging as any in our military history, but they were never accorded an enthusiastic welcome home or sincere thanks for their service. This monument will join the monuments to all previous wars and represent a much-deserved ‘welcome home’ to honor Texas Vietnam Veterans.” And amen to that, too. The mistress of ceremonies was Ms. Karoni Forrester, whose father was reported Missing in Action one month before the peace treaty was signed. She said the Vietnam Veterans help the families who lost a warrior, and described the Empty Chair Syndrome, where they miss a family member even on the good occasions. The monument is also a memorial in the fact that inside is place a dogtag listing the information for every Texan lost; They were hand stamped letter by letter using the same machine. Then a second set was made, and that is currently hanging in the Capitol Rotunda. Don Dorsey, a Vietnam Veteran USMC scout sniper, embossed over 6,000 of them. He mentioned several sites in Vietnam, and the audience hollered out when he mentioned their “favorites”. (His was “Leprosyville.”) He told the story of his higher ranking team leader and short timer who took his spot on the squad (he had a ‘bad feeling’ about the mission?) and never came back. He said it’s been forty-five years and he’s never forgotten, and the man lives in him. “As survivors we have the duty to remember because too often we were the last to see them alive.” He told how he had briefly conversed with each casualty as he made their tags, and especially those he had known. Robert Floyd, Vietnam Veteran with the 101st Airborne Div (1969-1970), was the man inspired to have a monument to Texas’ Vietnam Veterans, and Chairman of the Committee. He named the first and last Texans killed in Vietnam, and mentioned many returned with wounds, some visible, and some not…and the debilitating effects of Agent Orange and how we’re losing our guys way too soon. He thanked the representatives for their co-authoring and bipartisan support of the bill and others that helped make the monument a glorious reality, especially that “Motley Band of Brothers” on his committee. There were many acts of unbelievable valor in Vietnam, he declared, and soldiers don’t start wars, but soldiers go and die in them. The majority of Americans couldn’t locate Pleiku, Mekong, Khe Sahn, etc., but as Joe Galloway said, [words to the effect that] those that served in those distant places served honorable and courageously as those who stormed the Beaches of Normandy, fought at the Battle of the Bulge, and wouldn’t give up at the Chosin Reservoir. Vietnam Veterans may not be the greatest generation but by God they’re the greatest of their generation. Governor Rick Perry: As children we saw the honor of our fathers, witnessed their joyous homecoming, stood and waved at WW2 veterans, heard their speeches at July 4th. Then when their generation’s time came to serve, they went willingly: draftees and volunteers. Some took deferments, some left the country, but these [men in the audience] did the right thing….[some even died, and those who] returned suffered even more when they came home. Perhaps the result is the Vietnam Veterans bonded more profoundly then the bonds on the battlefield…they learned to depend on each other even better than their forebears. The lesson was not lost on those who followed…it may be the most fitting legacy of the veterans of Vietnam. We’re a wiser nation, and have a better understanding of the need to honor those who fight. We also remember the Vietnamese who fought then, [as a nod to the Vietnamese in the audience] and pursued freedom,  and some got it totally right and moved to Texas! Our Vietnam vets truly were our best and brightest and I’m glad [this monument] is on the grounds of the most beautiful capitol in the nation. Yep. All in all it was a good day.
Notes from Speeches at the Vietnam Veterans Monument
Copyright 2013, Hill Country Veterans’ Network
My imperfect Notes from the Speeches Always nice to hear what ‘the Quality’ have to say...the doers, not just talkers.
Hill Country Veterans’ Network
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