Dog tags from 10 soldiers and one airman from Killeen will be forever entombed in a new monument outside the Texas Capitol.
Nearly 30 deceased service members from Temple, Copperas Cove, Belton, Gatesville and Lampasas also will be on the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument, set to break ground Monday in Austin.
Retired Army Col. Sam Floca Jr. and retired Army Capt. Charlie Lewellen — both from Temple — will be on hand for the groundbreaking ceremonies.
At 8:30 a.m. Sunday at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, more than 110 volunteers will read the names of the 3,417 Texans who died in Vietnam. Floca, who served in Vietnam with the 1st Infantry Division in 1966 and 1968, will read 25 of those names.
“There are several men that (Charlie and I) knew very well that died over there,” Floca said.
Also Sunday, the Vietnam Heroes Exhibit of 3,417 hand-stamped dog tags honoring each Texan who served in the armed forces in the Vietnam War will be entombed in the monument.
“It’s called the Vietnam Veterans because it honors a generation, but pays homage to those who didn’t get to come home,” Floca said. “Vietnam always haunted me, but it was after I became a senior (citizen) when the philosophical questions came. We have finally understood how lucky we are to have had the chance to live out our lives, a chance denied to so many others.”
Floca — who received the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, five Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm — said the dog tags will be placed in an ammo can that will be placed within the monument.
“By having that canister, a grandchild can touch that monument, and touch a grandfather she never knew,” he said. “The state is giving us a place where, any time you’re in Austin, people driving through there will be able to stop by and get a picture. It’s a place of pilgrimage, meditation and memory.”
Floca will attend the ceremonies with his daughter, but said he knows several veterans who are going together and staying at the same hotel. “We never miss an opportunity to see each other again,” he said.