COPPERAS COVE — Retired Sgt. 1st Class Juan Guevara is only terrified of one thing — war. So, when the Vietnam veteran left the country and later retired in 1977, he was glad.

“I was only scared one time (in my life) and that’s when I got (to Vietnam) and I stopped being scared when I left,” Guevara said.

He was among more than 500 veterans and their families who were honored Saturday at the fifth annual Independence Day Celebration, hosted by Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans at the Copperas Cove Civic Center.

“It’s beautiful, it’s wonderful,” Guevara said. “It’s nice to know that the community cares about their veterans (and are) doing something like this. It’s a good time to have it, around the Fourth of July.”

Retired 1st Sgt. Jonathan Haywood, president of the nonprofit, said their goal is to help veterans whenever they can.

“The purpose of this is to service the (older) veterans for the holidays because a whole lot of these people won’t get the chance to have dinner with their family or loved ones,” Haywood said.

Retired Staff Sgt. Leon Parker, a member of the local nonprofit, said he got involved with the organization to give back to other veterans who also helped defend the country’s freedoms.

“It’s awesome. I’m glad we’re doing a big (event for the veterans),” he said. “It’s just to recognize what they’ve given to the community and what they’ve done.”

Guevara’s wife, Annabel, said she is thankful for veterans’ service and recognition during the picnic.

“I’m very proud of (my husband),” she said. “I’m just honored to see how they treat veterans here.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

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