KILLEEN — The smiles of four Vietnam veterans brightened the gloomy morning Friday as they were honored for their service during by Dennis Eakin Kia in partnership with retired Army 1st Sgt. Eddie Bell Jr., state president and national director of the Department of Texas Korean War Veterans Association.
Bell and dealership owner Dennis Eakin pinned each of the former service members — Sgt. 1st Class Richard Beach, Army Sgt. Terry Fisher, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alejandro Solis and Staff Sgt. David M. Jones — and gifted them with certificates and DD214 forms stating their official release from the military.
The certificates commended the service members for their duty and valor in combat and were signed by former Secretary of State Martin Dempsey, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and by former President of the United States Barack Obama.
Jones wants the message about his fellow service members to reach more ears.
“This is a big thing,” Jones said. “I’m hoping that it will spread across this country to tell those that are still living, Vietnam vets, that it did matter and that we were doing something that, at that time, no one else was willing to do.”
Jones served in the Army and the Marine Corps from 1966-1987 and currently works as a minister and pastor.
Solis cherished the time he was able to spend with his brothers-in-arms.
“It’s an honor to be recognized because a lot of the people that see Vietnam veterans don’t like them,” said Solis. “They called us dirty names when we got back, but it’s an honor to be here and to be recognized as a veteran. I‘m glad to be here today with my comrades because once you’re in the military, a brother is a brother and it doesn’t ever change.”
Beach, who retired after 17 years of service, appreciated the event and the significance it holds for him and his comrades.
“When we came back we didn’t get recognized,” said Beach. “We’re definitely proud of our country and we appreciate this, but more information needs to be passed around so other Vietnam veterans can be recognized as well.”
In addition to the Vietnam veteran pinning ceremony, Dennis Eakin Kia also collaborated with Bell Glass for a vehicle giveaway to a veteran family in need.
Spc. Michael Pruneda and his wife, Ariana and son Nicholas, 2, were chosen out of 400 soldiers involved with the program to receive a brand new 2017 Kia Rio LX. The family has been without a vehicle since they arrived at Fort Hood two years ago.
The Prunedas were incredibly humbled to be chosen for the giveaway and said “they are so happy to receive such a great honor.”
“I think the program is amazing,” Ariana said. “There are a lot of families out there who are in need of another vehicle and what they’re doing here is just amazing. It means the world to us.”
“We weren’t expecting this at all,” Michael added. “It’s a really nice car, it’ll help us out so much.”
The Prunedas are expecting another child, a girl, due in January.