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South Texas poet recites her tribute to departed military heroes

Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 21:31:55-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — When Gloria Armstrong was a young girl growing up in West Texas, the product of Lorraine developed a love for writing.

“I’ve got poems where the paper is yellow,” laughed Gloria. “They’re so old.”

She wrote about anything - friendship - faith - even her favorite pair of red shoes. But back then, youth in innocence quickly matured with uncertainty, when her brother was called the fight in Vietnam.

By the time she reached high school, her doodling would eventually advance to writing more about duty, honor, and country.

“Our classmates were walking across the stage to receive a diploma, walking off the stage, removing their graduation gown and putting on a military uniform,” Gloria recalled.

Fast forward to one of Gloria‘s more recent high school reunions. That’s when she told classmate Danny Tart, that she was going to write a poem about those soldiers like her brother in Vietnam. Yet she was reluctant to read it out loud.

“He (Danny) sent me an email and he said… ‘If you do not read that poem… That poem will be lost forever.’”

She mustered up the courage to read it, and the response from her classmates was overwhelming.

In fact, just after her brother Zeferino Barrera died in 2018, Gloria thought her writing could be useful after she attended a service for an unaccompanied veteran. Other than that veteran ‘s own family, not being there, Gloria also noticed something else important missing.

“And I thought … no one thanked him for his service. No one called him a hero,” said Gloria.

She asked to speak at the next unaccompanied veteran service just to make that right.

She painted a vivid picture with words… some of them actually from her poem that she wrote six decades ago of the raw truth of Vietnam.

“Those words are… Some were successful, some really tried, some went to war, and there… they died,” Gloria read.

Those words were so profound that Gloria was invited back to another service to deliver more from her patriotic poem.

“They carried freedom on their shoulders. They held it tightly to their chest,” She read.

Words from her collection that take 15 minutes to recite, are so deeply meaningful when spoken, they even help unite.

“I have been told that I touch their heart,” said Gloria.

“It (Gloria’s poetry) means a lot to us,” said Tony Acevedo, a member of the Memorial Service Detachment at The Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery.

“She puts it out for us to see, so we can open our eyes. You know. She will be rewarded.”

Jimmie Driver, a widow of a veteran, is equally touched by Gloria’s strong, yet loving tribute to the legacy of veterans.

“It just says what we all would like to say to everybody who puts our country down, who don’t realize all the background of what these men and women served, and did to keep us… So we can say what we want to say,”. said Jimmie.

We all have different callings to help preserve our way of life. Some are called to protect us and others to lend a voice of heartfelt gratitude.

“One of the veterans came by and said to me… ‘No one has ever talked about us like this,’” said Gloria. “And I said well, it’s about time.”

Watch Gloria recite her tribute to Vietnam veteranshere.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.

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