Vietnam veterans get long-awaited 'welcome home' with Texas Capitol memorial
AUSTIN, Texas — The dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Monument at the Texas Capitol on Saturday highlighted the pain, pride and solidarity of those who put their lives on the line in an unpopular conflict.
“They fought, they bled, all too often they died for their country. When they came home, there wasn't any parades. There weren't any picnics. Instead they were treated with indifference or, even worse, with outright scorn,” said Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry said the bronze sculpture of an infantry patrol, unveiled before a throng of veterans, will “stand as a declaration that in Texas, we understand how blessed we are to have warriors ready to step forward and draw a line between us and those who would do harm to our citizens.”
He also noted “the many Vietnamese nationals who fought alongside us throughout that war.”
Perry, an Air Force veteran who served between 1972 and 1977 flying C-130 tactical airlift in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, formally accepted the monument on the state's behalf from Robert Floyd, chairman of a committee composed of Vietnam veterans that raised money for the $2.2 million monument and oversaw its production.
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a McAllen Democrat who co-sponsored the monument authorization legislation with Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, a fellow Vietnam veteran, said that when the monument was unveiled, “I felt chills in my body.”
“Welcome home, and God bless you all,” Hinojosa told the crowd. He recalled his Marine squad that included people from around the country, including, he said with fond amusement, “two hillbillies from West Virginia who could make some moonshine.”
They came from all walks of life but became a family willing to die for each other, their country and their way of life, Hinojosa said.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, spoke at the ceremony, as did Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is facing a runoff with state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston for the GOP nomination.
“We will always remember. We will always honor. And this monument allows us, for future generations, to learn,” said Van de Putte, who heads the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee.
She cited heroes including two Medal of Honor recipients from San Antonio honored at the White House this month: Vietnam veterans Jose Rodela and Santiago Erevia. Erevia attended the ceremony, and Van de Putte recognized him along with his wife as the crowd applauded.
Dog tags personalized for 3,417 Texans who died or were unaccounted for are inside the monument.
“You defined what it is to be an American, and what it is to be a Texan,” said Dewhurst, who was in the Air Force from 1967-70 and also served in the CIA.