In recognition of National Vietnam Veterans Day, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1000 last Friday hosted its second annual National Vietnam Veterans Day Commemorative Breakfast at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3892 in Harker Heights.
The observance of National Vietnam Veterans Day on March 29 is significant.
That’s the date in 1973 when the last 2,500 combat troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam, as well as when the last of the Vietnam War prisoners arrived on U.S. soil.
Congress formally recognized the date of the observance with legislation passed in 2017.
“What we try to do is celebrate the soldiers who came home and memorialize those who didn’t,”said retired Sgt. 1st Class Willie Williams, who gave a speech during the ceremony.
Approximately 30 people came to the breakfast that featured an invocation from Chapter President Victor Wiggins, a retired Army staff sergeant, and speeches by Williams and retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Marty Martinez.
Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith also was in attendance. Smith was active duty for nearly 24 with the Marines, primarily as a helicopter pilot, and retired as a lieutenant colonel
During the ceremony, retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jess Hamilton was recognized with a Quilt of Valor.
Hamilton, who has attended all but one of the unaccompanied veteran funerals at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, spoke of his reasons for being there for veterans that he has never even met.
“It’s something that needs to be done and I just love to be there for them” Hamilton said. “These guys don’t have anybody. But when you sign up for the military, you all sign up together you are all brothers.”
Wiggins said his friends and mentor returning to Bay City from Vietnam were spit on and being told to take off their uniforms.
But Wiggins hopes that people learn from what transpired with Vietnam, to not forget, and to help those that are still with us.
“We were just doing our job, we were just following orders.” Wiggins said.
“We wanted to get back to our wives and our families.
“And when you see a Vietnam veteran, take the time out to appreciate them, be kind to them, help them get the benefits that they deserve and are entitled to,” he said.
“But most importantly, when you thank them for their service, really mean it.”