CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Tuesday was National Vietnam Veterans Day.
The day was designated in 2017, 44 years to the day, after the last combat units left Vietnam.
Observances were held around the country, including Corpus Christi at the Nueces County Courthouse Memorial Garden.
The ceremony was a celebration for those who served in Vietnam with so many veterans in attendance. For many, it was the ‘welcome home’ they didn't get when they came back to the United States, five-plus decades ago.
“So many veterans were recognized and honored,” said Veterans Band of Corpus Christi Director Ram Chavez.
Vietnam veterans were honored for their service as well as those who didn't come home.
“My brother David who served in Vietnam in 1971,” said Joe Elizondo. “He got killed.”
Elizondo also served in Vietnam. He had been home three years when his brother was killed.
He says he's grateful for events like this.
“It’s a great honor, very respectful,” Elizondo said. “I enjoyed it. I now know my brother’s life means something.”
“If you do some mission with your heart and mind, and to honor so many, it will come together,” Chavez said.
The event's guest speaker was Karoni Forrester. Her father, Ronald, is a Missing In Action veteran from Vietnam, and she was only 2-years-old when her father left to fight in Vietnam and never returned home. You can watch her full speech below.
The ceremony was hosted by Vietnam Veterans Association Chapter #910 and the Veterans Band of Corpus Christi. Several Veterans Band members are also Vietnam vets, including Chavez, who remembers what it was like when he came home.
“We were not welcome when we came back, but yet we’re at the airports to see our young veterans come home and welcome them because we know how it feels not to be welcome,” Chavez said.
That's why Chavez and the Veterans Band organized this event, to thank these veterans and finally welcome them home.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 53 years too late,” Chavez said. “We’ve been welcoming them ever since.”
Chavez added that Tuesday’s event was the kick-off for a year's worth of Vietnam Veterans observances hosted by the Veterans Band. The goal is to make sure every Vietnam vet in Nueces County and the Coastal Bend is recognized.